“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
These memorable words are inscribed on the gates of Hell in the work Inferno, the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy. And there is no better description in the written world that should represent the moniker of the dark, sunlight-deprived crap stain that is the George L. Mosse Humanities building, the University of Wisconsin’s largest eyesore.
I remember the first time I entered its doors. I was just an eager freshman in the fall of 2008, unsure of a major and naïve in the ways of the world outside of my mother’s delicious dinners in Oshkosh.
It was my first class. My first lecture ever as a student at UW. As I entered the doors, I was stricken with horror.
“There’s no sunlight here.”
And that’s the reason — besides my German heritage — I am more pasty white than Snow White herself. I’ve spent four years in a building where the sun is more foreign than The Atlantic Monthly is to the former cast of Jersey Shore.
What better way to discourage a new student from choosing a major in the liberal arts than housing them in a building dimmer than the salaries of their starting jobs after graduating?
Yes, no sunlight and zero view of the outside world from classrooms is an incredible way to spend one to eight hours at a time.
But the horrors don’t end there. Oh no, we haven’t even gotten to some of the better experiences in Humanities that have welled up in the dams of my memory.
First, let’s get nerdy and talk about the architecture. I assume the building is viewed similarly to the way I am by Madison’s population of sorority girls on the select few nights I enter the Kollege Klub: ugly and out of place.
Seriously, the building looks like it was designed to deter students from rioting (which is the urban legend surrounding the architecture of the building, since it was constructed in the protest-happy 1960s). Just looking at it, I feel like I should shiver or have the goosebumps.
And what about the quality of life on the inside of the building?
To begin with, there’s the wonderful wildlife that inhabits the building — and when I say wildlife, I really mean the magical kingdom of mice that live in the center wall of the main lecture hall on the second floor, 2650.
During the spring semester of 2012, I enjoyed one of my more memorable encounters of the zoological kind within the building when, in the middle of English class, a mouse poked its head out of a noticeable hole in the wall.
Sitting diligently in the front row like the good student I appear to be, I was one of the first to notice the aberration. “Yes, wonderful!” was the first thought that ran through my head.
Suddenly, the rodent took to the floor and the expected shrieking of girls and picking up of feet by dudes occurred, as lecture was disrupted for several minutes while the confused beast wandered throughout the floor and rows of chairs, enjoying its conquest of the unchartered world of the classroom.
This didn’t happen just one day, but several times during the course of the semester. And, sadly, this still wasn’t my favorite moment of my career in the Humanities dungeon.
To open up this semester, I had a discussion class inside one of the various smaller-sized torture chambers within the building. As we commenced discussion, I saw drops of water leaking from the ceiling and hitting a girl on the head, soaking her and her backpack and forcing her to move her desk several inches to the right to avoid a potential, unasked-for bath from the falling-apart structure.
And there’s also the temperature and the smell. Either it’s 100 degrees in the building or it’s frigid, and the men’s bathroom is so beautifully designed the entire building gets a nice whiff of whoever decided to grace the porcelain god with a deuce. I would personally liken the smell to a petting zoo.
So, what are my recommendations? Well, first off, congratulations to UW for finally getting the music school their own space in the near future. There was nothing creepier than being in the first level of the building and hearing an organ or instrument noise coming from one of the various hidden rooms on a dimly-lit winter or spring afternoon. Seriously, most days I was just waiting for “The Phantom of the Opera” to come out and start serenading the nearest female to “The Music of the Night.”
OK, back to my ideas. In my humble opinion, the next building to be replaced should be Humanities. Just because liberal arts students like me don’t have the most appealing majors doesn’t mean we need the least appealing building on campus to house us. Also, the building is a relic to some sort of time I’m not sure ever existed at UW.
So while I await the announcement UW is finally approving the destruction and rebuilding of a new Humanities building, I’ll be silently waiting in its dark shadows to witness the next collapse of a ceiling tile from water damage.
Nick is a fifth-year senior majoring in history and English. Love or hate the Humanities building? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org or just go searching for him in the endless first floor maze of hallways in Humanities.