Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Riot Proof (Or, Scrappy Is As Scrappy Doo)

This is a view from the steps of the Old Capitol building.  Just beyond the trees, you can see two brick buildings.  Actually, you can see the one brick building with all the windows, but the other -- the massive brick blob -- somehow manages to disappear behind the one tree in the foreground that doesn't have any leaves.  This is the building that houses my department and my office.  And it was designed to be riot proof.

That's right.

It was apparently built at the tail-end or right after that period in history when college students paid attention to the world around them, got pissed, and took potentially destructive action. With the exception of faculty offices, you can only see out if you stay near the doors.  Every door in the building is a fire door, so leaving my office to go to the restroom is a workout.  Similarly, the first floor is laid out in a such a pattern with oddly-angled turns such that one becomes disoriented in the building very easily.  Students can almost never find their instructors' offices -- or even the department office at times!  It took me the better part of a semester to match the specific portions of the inside to their outside-world counterparts, and correctly identify which of four unevenly placed exit doors connected them.

During my first year, I don't know how many times I ended up walking 3/4 of the way around the building because I could never be sure which was the shortest path between the part of the building where I was standing and where I wanted to end up.

A perfect physical representation of the problem I have with academia in general.

I took this picture the same day that two emails went out over the grad student listserv "encouraging" more attendance at department seminar.

More concerned about being considered a "great thinker" than they are with doing the kind of thinking (or ACTING, for that matter) that might actually do someone any good.

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
                                                          by Walt Whitman
When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

"I love you, Walt freakin' Whitman!"

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