The Locust Walk Experience

Author: Jonathan Cousins, SEAS ’14

One of the most iconic locations on Penn’s campus is Locust Walk, the bustling, beautiful, tree-lined central pathway through campus. Stretching from 34th to 40th, every Penn student has dozens if not hundreds of trips down this path. During the winter, lit globes fill the trees, and add a spot of light during the cold winter nights. But, there is another side to Locust, one that only shows itself in the middle of the day, during the prime walking hours. Fliers. The ultimate elevator pitch, various campus groups attempt to entice students into taking their sheet of paper, and ultimately attending their show or concert. The only problem is, most people don’t want anything to do with the fliers. Students have been known to use various tactics to avoid the sales pitches, from pretending to absorbed in their iPods and cell phones to just plain walking with their heads down.

Early on during my Penn career, I experience phenomenon, and it changed Locust Walk for me.  Suddenly, I had to make a tradeoff – take the scenic walk and deal with the fliers, or walk down Walnut and avoid it entirely? Fortunately, as an engineering student who lived in Hill and then Sansom West, my route to the Engineering Quad rarely required me to take this pathway. This was a relief, because I found the constant calls for attention to be on the annoying side, while at the same time feeling bad ignoring someone who is working hard to represent their event.

So, imagine how I felt when suddenly. Red and Blue Crew decided to sell Princeton basketball tickets on Locust Walk. As a prominent member of the Crew, I signed up to do my share of shifts, and immediately I was thrust onto the other side. Now, I was the one yelling my pitch across the Walk, hoping people would notice and take action. It was during this process that I discovered something: I truly enjoyed it. Every time someone came up to buy a ticket, or told me that they already had one, I knew one more person was hooked on Penn basketball. I got to really experience what the buzz on campus was like for that game, and it was exciting! And it also paid off in the end, as the Princeton game ended up drawing over 600 students.

Even more fun was the week leading up to the Harvard game, where we were giving tickets away. While other tables were desperately recruiting walkers, we had people coming up to us without provocation to ask about the free tickets. Overnight, the Harvard game became the place to be on a Friday night, and we drew 1,800 students – the largest number who attended in years!  So now whenever I take a stroll down Locust Walk and see people yelling about their group, I know how it feels. My saying “no” will have little to no effect on them, because that’s not what they are waiting for. They are waiting for a chance to connect with people who are excited about the same things as them, and it is this network of connections that makes Locust Walk, even at its loudest in the middle of the day, a beautiful place.

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Filed under Campus Life, Jonathan C., Student Perspective, Uncategorized

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