An Empty Heart: SLU After the Outbreak


Here at Saint Louis University, we often say we are “the heart of Saint Louis.” Physically, that description is correct: We are just about equidistant from the edges of the city and have easy access to most of what it has to offer. In the context of our mission statement, our role as the “heart” is even more justified: SLU is the Jesuit lifeblood of St. Louis, giving students the resources and knowledge to make the city and our world a more equitable and livable place. If SLU is the heart, then the students are the blood. 

For now, though, this heart barely beats. Just as the blood moving through the heart gives it purpose, SLU is nothing without the droves of bright minds, young and old, flowing through its atria and ventricles out into the wider St. Louis community. Stay-at-home orders and online classes keep us from meeting on the steps of the clock tower, catching cherry blossom leaves in the Village or rubbing the Billiken’s stomach at Chaifetz Arena. Students no longer play at Hermann Stadium, drink coffee and tea with the Jesuits or laugh and smile their way down West Pine to dinner at Grand Dining Hall. Our absence on campus is not just noticeable––it is painful. 

Nevertheless, the campus lives on with the plants and the animals, as well as a handful of students who were granted refuge in the remaining dorms. The pictures here should not make you lament your absence, but should instead remind you of the community that awaits your return. We must make do with what we have for now, but when the world is ready, we will fill this heart to the brim once again.

Unless you frequently travel at 3 a.m., it’s very rare to see so few people walking, running or hoverboarding on West Pine. Students in residence halls began relocating to either Spring or Grand Hall shortly after classes were suspended, while students in on-campus apartments moved to Marchetti. As such, there’s little reason for students to venture to the western edge of campus, where this bench sits alone.
For some occasions, having less people on campus is a good thing. Unburdened by the critical eyes of students, the photographer felt bold enough to get into some weird positions while snapping shots of SLU’s North Campus. For this picture, the photographer sidestepped around delicate tulips and sat himself on a floodlight at the foot of the clock tower. Luckily, the scorching bulb within the light was not on.
It’s hard to find a bad angle for the Billiken. He’s been on camera so many times, he’s trained his winning smile to shine at all times. As is tradition, I couldn’t leave without giving him a triple rub on the belly––with my elbow, of course.
Without students to keep them company, the many bronze and stone statues at SLU seek admiration from elsewhere. The infrequent flow of students from Spring to Grand Dining Hall comes nowhere near this fellow, who watches over the entrance to Chaifetz Arena.
Geese! You may not be here to meet the newest wave of goose babies at the gazebo, but fear not, they are in good hands, and probably appreciate how little they’re being bothered.
Cherry blossoms bloom in the central courtyard of the Village Apartments. Usually, the courtyard is full of students seeking shade and comfort beneath their pinkish-white canopies.
Like most non-essential buildings on campus, Cupples House and the McNamee exhibition space closed to the public shortly after the outbreak. The CGC is similarly a ghost town, although a handful of students settled at the tables outside after this picture was taken.
Even as students return home, construction workers continue to work on the upcoming Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building (look closely, and you may feel as though you’re having your picture taken).
Students may be in short supply on the North Campus, but the signs of life and love are ever present in your absence. The unsightly tears in this hammock’s webbing give us an idea of how many students it supported, how many friends it made. Were you among them?