It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing


Twilight downtime: Two students eat ice cream on one of campus’s signature blue hammocks. Students have supplemented the hammock shortage with a portable alternative. Courtesy Michelle Peltier

When provided with blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures, campus becomes populated by a recently common, albeit strange, sight. Like clusters of human pupae in fabric cocoons, students sit, sway and sleep in lightweight, portable hammocks suspended between trees.

Twilight downtime: Two students eat ice cream on one of campus’s signature blue hammocks. Students have supplemented the hammock shortage with a portable alternative. Courtesy Michelle Peltier

This phenomenon in students’ engagement with their campus comes as a response to a noticeable hammock shortage: The three hammocks on the grassy expanse along the quad are unique SLU fixtures, yet lucky are those few students who manage to find them unoccupied. Notably, these hammocks’ nets, installed only a few weeks ago, are blue this year, as opposed to the usual white.

Sophomore Ashley Long, lying on a SLU hammock at the time, did not own one of the growingly popular personal hammocks, but acknowledged seeing them around.

“It’s easier when you have your own instead of having to wait to steal one … I think I saw three or four at a time,” she said.

“A couple of my friends back home use them at their schools,” said sophomore Alex Mueller.

Settled in a shaded grove of trees near the clock tower, Mueller was preparing to recline in his own hammock – borrowed from his brother – and read a book. He said that setup takes him no longer than 30 seconds.

On Friday, April 24, SLU’s Wilderness Adventure Club held a fundraising event involving tie dying, slacklining and music. Several members of the club perched in personal hammocks suspended in the lower – and dizzying upper – branches of trees bordering the clock tower fountain.

“I think it’s becoming a cultural trend,” said junior Andrew Barenz, president of WAC, citing the hammocks’ compactness and portability. “That’s probably why they’re so popular [on campus] … A lot of students carry them

around with them.”

Barenz owns an Eno brand hammock, which costs around $60.

“I kind of discovered them on my own,” said freshman Chris Gaynor, doing homework from the comfort of his hammock. “I think a lot of people already know about them.”

Gaynor bought his for $80, and explained that they generally cost “no more than $100.”

The legion of hammock users joins the traditional groups of sunbathers, Frisbee throwers and whiffle ball players that define spring days at SLU. They represent a paradox of very public privacy as well: Many drape blankets over the gaps in the tops of their hammocks as they nap – all while students parade past them between classes.

This interaction between students and campus flora has endured for decades. Indeed, its longevity is the fruit of continuous labor by Grounds Services, whose director, Jeff Macko, has noted the hammocks’ marked presence.

“We try to talk to the kids about where they’re placing them,” he said.

He mentioned the risk of suspending the hammocks from thin trees, which bend under the strain.

“Our grounds crew is very passionate about what they do … [They] take ownership in the areas that they have,” he added.

One concern is the beds of perennials, planted in late February, around the areas in which students tend to congregate.  Thus, Grounds Services’ work is a matter of balance between an active campus and the green spaces it encompasses.

Macko brought up the fact that many employees from neighboring businesses, as well as myriad other off-campus visitors, gravitate toward SLU’s nurtured landscape. He asserted that Grounds Services strives to maintain a “SLU standard.”

“All this is here for the kids to use,” said Macko. “We’re providing an environment where they can be comfortable.”

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