The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

No action on Ball: Ongoing maintenance on Ball Circle prevents students from gathering on campus landmark

3 min read
An overview of a field of grass facing the Cedrick Rucker University Center.

Ball Circle is located in the heart of campus outside of the Cedric Rucker University Center. | Abbey Magnet, The Weekly Ringer


Staff Writer

The University of Mary Washington is known for its beautiful, picturesque campus, but what use is a pretty lawn if we can only look at it?

As the spring weather radiates warmth and sunshine onto the remnants of this year’s lengthy winter, students spend more time outside using the various tables, chairs and benches around campus. On pleasant days, students lay blankets on the grass in front of dorm buildings to bask in the sun. But one area remains depressingly vacant: Ball Circle. 

The primary space intended to encourage student engagement and promote a sense of belonging has been restricted for many years. Ball Circle has been undergoing maintenance since 2021, causing the fences surrounding and blocking the grass to become a permanent feature on campus.

Director of Landscape and Grounds Holly Chichester-Morby commented on the ongoing maintenance of Ball Circle and its importance to the campus. As the director, she “initiates and oversees the maintenance, improvements, and overall enhancement of the campus grounds.”

“Ball Circle is not only the ‘centerpiece’ of the UMW campus, it’s one of the most actively utilized greenspaces we have. This includes scheduled events and casual use,” she said. “We will open it specifically for Devil-Goat Day 2024 and 2024 Commencement, then close it again to address issues to prepare for UMW Reunion Weekend, and then close it for one more summer to get it in shape for the Fall [2024] semester.”

Eagle Gathering, UMW’s inaugural candlelight event held at the beginning of the fall semester, is the only tradition that has taken place on Ball Circle during the 2023–2024 academic year. As a replacement for the epicenter of campus life, the other events traditionally held on Ball Circle have been moved elsewhere to locations like Campus Walk or Jefferson Square. 

Caty Taylor, a freshman history and anthropology double major, expressed discontent with the ongoing closure of Ball Circle because they have yet to receive an opportunity to utilize the space since classes began.

“It’s especially frustrating because as a first-year I was really looking forward to being able to use it … but when you have one expectation, and then you go there and it’s not [open], it’s disappointing,” they said. 

The recent solar eclipse—during which students flocked to Ball Circle to get a glimpse of the rare sight—was a meaningful moment for the space, for it hadn’t seen that much traffic in years. Unplanned by any faculty or organizations, the impromptu occasion conveyed students’ desire for free reign in the area.

Margo Korsakava, a junior business major, hasn’t seen an event hosted on Ball Circle since Club Carnival during her freshman year. As someone who has been a student since its initial closure, she has witnessed the impact of its loss on UMW’s sense of community. 

“I feel like once it got closed, students don’t really come together as a unit anymore,” she said. “The closest thing to it is … Jefferson Square, and that’s just too far for people from Eagle [Landing] or other halls that are further down [C]ampus [W]alk, so I feel like it’s not as active as it should be.”

Due to UMW’s campus being open to the public, various individuals not part of the faculty, staff, or student body often walk their dogs or bike along the paths. Sean Price, a freshman business major, is a local who grew up familiar with the school grounds years before he ever attended as a student. 

“I remember I played [frisbee] maybe two or three years ago with a bunch of college students, and that was really fun,” Price said. “It was such a welcoming environment. So not being able to have such an environment where you can nurture communication [and] friendships … really brings me down, not seeing it anymore.” 

Access to the dedicated heart of campus is necessary for the community. One of the most crucial aspects of a college experience is the quality of the relationships made during it, and an inviting community allows more opportunities to connect with others. 

UMW students have expressed their desire to populate Ball Circle, with many willing to ignore the fences and lay in the sun whenever they please. As a result, UMW should open up Ball Circle not just for events and University-sanctioned gatherings, but also for us to embrace the Mary Wash experience we were promised.