You may have noticed the phrase “Cloyne is suck” somewhere at Cloyne. In my time here, I’ve seen or heard it on multiple occasions: scratched into pavement, chalked up in a bathroom and in the courtyard, and said over email and in conversation. However, given its history, I think the use of this phrase is against values of inclusion here at Cloyne. For people who may have forgotten or never even heard it to begin with (who I imagine constitute all, or almost all, of the people who use it today), I’d like to share the backstory behind the phrase, some of its current usages, and my thoughts on all of this.*
According to two independent sources (minutes from a New Cloyne council and a forum post from an Old Clone), the phrase originated with a Korean study abroad student for whom English was not their first language, who was staying at Cloyne before the house became substance-free. The member apparently had such a horrible experience here that, as they were moving out, they (ungrammatically) spray-painted “Cloyne is suck” somewhere on the premises. The story goes that many members of the house subsequently took up the phrase both as something that was apparently funny and moreover as a motto that unified Cloyne and represented its identity.
I can only speculate as to the reasons why this member had such a horrible experience at Cloyne. However, given the way Old Clones re-used the member’s phrase of ungrammatical English, it seems safe to assume that one factor was an environment with more microaggressions and oppressive behavior than Cloyne and the BSC have in the present moment. (This was confirmed to me by a BSC alum who had to file a conduct complaint against Old Clones for using a homophobic slur to refer to their gay housemates when they flyered at Old Cloyne.)
Another factor would seem to be Old Cloyne’s drug culture, which the Board identified (through focus groups of non-members) as a deterrent for people of color to live in the co-ops. (According to the already cited forum post, the BSC’s bylaws were “thrown out the window [at non-substance-free Cloyne], and anything goes in this place”. As examples, the author of the post cites “house managers growing pot in their closets” and “social managers embezzling house funds for coke binges”.)
In any case, rather than reflect on the reasons that may have caused a member to be upset with what should be an inviting and inclusive home, Old Clones chose to mock the member’s ungrammatical English and make this mocking a part of their identity. This is a part of Cloyne’s history that I think we should all be aware of, so that we don’t perpetuate the language discrimination—and also racism and xenophobia—it promoted.
The phrase “Cloyne is suck” is scratched in all caps into the pavement outside the Ridge Road entrance of Cloyne. Date unknown.
Interestingly, even after a complete turnover of Cloyne’s membership with the retheming, members of New Cloyne have continued to use the phrase. Although different in one significant way, the usage now is similar to the original usages. For example, in accordance with its original use by the study abroad student, one usage seems to be as a sort of lamentation, a way of complaining about Cloyne’s problems; this usage seems to explain, for instance, why the phrase was written up in the chalkboard bathroom after a recent and divisive PNG of several members, for alleged violation of the substance-free policy. But the way Old Clones appropriated the Korean member’s phrase—as a unifying symbol of Cloyne, a celebration of the house’s identity—seems to have carried over, too; it was recently suggested, for example, as a theme for Special Dinner.
The discrepancy between its current and past usages seems to be the phrase’s mocking aspect. I think that this difference speaks specifically to the fact that this backstory has been either forgotten or unheard to begin with (and more generally to the nature of institutional memory in the co-ops). But, as the BSC’s Consent workshops teach us, actions can be wrong even without the intention to harm, and I think that even New Clones’ use of “Cloyne is suck” is one such action. Especially as we enter the summer, which has historically had significantly more foreign-born members on study abroad and for whom English is not their first language, I think we need to be aware of the alienating effects this motto can have on Cloyne members.
The phrase “Cloyne is suck” is chalked up in pink in the bathroom next to the Facilities Manager’s office, with hearts dotting the ‘i’ and floating around. Dated to Fall 2017.
To be sure, I think that language can be a inclusive source of unity and identity for a co-op or other community. For example, Lothlorien has the alliterative and endearing phrase “Loth is love”. Similarly, members of Kingman have a word in their own invented language (!!), which I think translates roughly to “love” and certainly sounds as pleasant as its meaning: “ayupar”. And at Cloyne, it is not uncommon to hear Latinx members (especially those who are study abroad students) speak Spanish with one another, and also listen to music in Spanish in the kitchen. All of these are testaments to the power of language to bring people together in a co-op setting.
If we want language to unify us and celebrate our collective and our individual cultures here at Cloyne, then by all means. But let’s be sure to follow Loth’s, Kingman’s, and (sometimes) our own models of inclusive language: language built not on divisiveness, but on love and community.
*As a white, American-born person whose first and primary language is English, I recognize that I don’t have all that much to offer to this conversation in terms of personal experience. I share this as an act of solidarity because I imagine that few (if any) current members know this history. (As a third-year Clone, I hope generally that I can help preserve important institutional memory through acts like these.) I certainly welcome discussion and don’t feign to have a final say in the slightest on this topic (or others).