What we have come to define as the CSUN college experience is quite different from what others have defined as the “normal” college experience, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The “normal” college experience is what most students who go to UCLA or the University of Illinois or Duke University partake in: Lots of dorms, plenty of near-campus residents, Greek Row, strict four-year graduation plans, parents paying for tuition, campus maps linked to a massive transit system, and a bunch of students whose only jobs are being students.
The CSUN experience isn’t like that. It’s not “normal,” and that’s OK. In fact, the idiosyncrasies of this school that make up its true character have a lot to do with CSUN’s being a commuter campus for the blue-collar student, a place where students always worry about fee hikes because they’re putting themselves through school. CSUN is a place where the campus is dead on the weekends because our students are spending time with their kids. We don’t have a Greek Row, and our dorms house just 1,900 students — only 6 percent of our student body. These things help make us who we are.
Sadly, these characteristics, as well as a lot of other outside forces, have not allowed for the existence of a college bar in our area. For a majority of college students, the “normal” college experience does, oddly enough, involve drinking. While not all CSUN students are as reckless as others, the young, “occasionally but responsibly reckless” demographic on this campus is still significant, as it is on any college campus.
Unlike other campuses, however, there is no college bar around the corner that students can frequent on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Any CSUN student who has spent time on a “normal” college campus has seen these bars, packed with college students on the weekends, serving out booze until 2 a.m. UCLA, University of Illinois, and Duke all have hip, college-geared taverns within walking distance of their campuses. UCLA’s famous student bar, Maloney’s, is a good example of one.
College newspapers from these “normal” college towns even publish lists of bars in the neighborhood so that students can try them out. Students who live near campus at these schools can spend Friday night on a “bar crawl,” hopping from bar to bar, meeting up with other students, and building a little camaraderie while they’re at it.
Reseda Boulevard, which should theoretically be our campus’ main business thoroughfare, is riddled with restaurants, grocery stores and fast food joints, but no college bars. Chili’s, which is really the only place near campus that could be considered a booze-related student hangout, closes at 11 p.m. on Thursdays, and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Besides, the “college-feel” of that establishment is marginalized by senior citizens who tend to frequent Chili’s during happy hour, and the same goes for Acapulco’s. On top of that, the University Student Union’s Pub Sports Bar ‘ Grill isn’t even open weekends.
Unless students are content with walking from their near-campus apartments to Ralph’s and downing a case of Miller Lite in the parking lot, they are forced to go into the city for their college fraternizing, or worst yet, go elsewhere in the Valley. With the recent fire that torched Pickwick’s Pub in Woodland Hills and the tendency for Harper’s on Tampa to be creepily lit, not too young a crowd and a bit of a walk from campus, it’s slim pickings for those who live on or near CSUN’s campus.
The area that surrounds our campus is far from being the college towns that Westwood and South Bend are. This is unfortunate, as the college bar is a great tradition that our students are really missing out on. Admittedly, drinking is not something that should compose too much of a student’s college experience, but socializing in large groups should be. The “normal” college experience is already absent enough from CSUN, and it’s about time students try to get some of it back.
If some financier were to dump money into building a new tavern somewhere along Reseda Boulevard or Devonshire Street, it’s almost a guarantee that students would take a liking to it, and would embrace those important first steps toward Northridge becoming that much more like a “normal” college town. As Envision 2035 begins to paint a clearer picture of what this campus will look like 30 years down the line — more students, more foot traffic, and most importantly, more on-campus student housing — it seems this transition is already underway.
We shouldn’t regret not being a college town yet, but we should also examine more closely why we’re so different from almost every sizeable university in this country in not having more college-geared bars. In these efforts, a little help from the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce would be much appreciated.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority view of the Sundial editorial board and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire staff.