Labyrinths piss off tomb raiders and, worst of all, the students at the University of Wisconsin who need to get to class.
The Mosse Humanities Building is what we have all come to know as the labyrinth on campus. Sure, the bridge connecting it to Vilas makes external navigation fairly easy, but what about the important stuff — the classes, the teachers, the learning resources we’re paying for inside — how do we get to them?
Before my first semester at UW, I heard from friends and veteran students how difficult it is to find your classes in the Humanities building. And not just at first — these are seniors who are telling me they still get lost.
It was just my luck: the majority of my classes were in the labyrinth.
Luck, indeed. I have no clue how it happened, but my first day I walked straight into my classes — no spinning, no retracing steps, no walking into the wrong class.
The same thing occurred the next day and the day after that, but the day after that one … No, I still found my classes—but I overheard some students talking about the possible destruction and reconstruction of this labyrinth. Eavesdropping, I heard, “I believe they’re going to be knocking down Humanities to rebuild it in a way that we can find our classes easier.”
Do we need a new Humanities building, though? Students eventually find their classes. I found mine. Maybe we won’t ever have the building’s blueprints etched in our minds, but is this a good enough reason to spend millions of dollars to replace Humanities? Why not advocate for digital walkthrough software, or better visual maps, or just giving students five extra minutes to find their class? Sounds like a money-saver to me.
Could it be that we simply love the idea of “new?” The students at UW (myself included) are obsessed with using the “squeaky wheel gets the grease method” — grassroots action — to get what we want. It’s not UW students only, it’s the attitude of the Generation Yers: shiny and new is immensely appealing. This raises some important questions: is advocating for something new in the best interest of the community as a whole? Is the attitude of wanting top-of-the-line everything a good thing? What would a new Humanities building truly be saying to the public?
The re-creation and adaptation of Union South in 2011 is a prime example of a redevelopment that is beneficial to the community, especially given the “green” motif behind its enhancements. But to advocate for an entirely new Humanities to replace the one that is currently fulfilling all its duties and expectations seems — if I may be blunt — selfish.
In May, 2011, The Isthmus reported, “UW-Madison’s Mosse Humanities Building is slated for demolition. Long live the Humanities Building!” I would like to note a comment on the article made by a graduate student at UW.
“I went to lectures by Mosse and Harvey Goldberg in the Humanities Building. Later, as a member of the Madison community, I attended many concerts, visited gallery shows and performed on the Mills Auditorium stage. I have several wonderful memories. Please tear down this [building] and replace it with functional space for the arts and humanities!”
From his first two statements, it’s clear the Humanities building is already a functional space for the arts and humanities. Tell me again why we want to tear it down? I believe our campaign for the building’s demolition and reconstruction is more complex than simple functionality.
Could it be the real reason lies in the spirit of Madison’s community?
In the eyes and hearts of each one of us, UW is the greatest educational institution there is. Call it ego or call it pride, we are motivated to keep our status of “top.” Schools all around America are continuously renovating, expanding and innovating. Could it be simply we don’t want to fall behind? Or to view it in another light, we (the students) have an ultimate desire to be leaders, pioneers, the test group of “new.” We understand that the current humanities building is completely functional, but if you give the UW community a completely fresh slate, a cleared ground for building, I can’t even begin to imagine what we could create. I do know, though, there are a hundred minds imagining something as they read this, ready and anxious to get to work. Will we let them?
Garth Beyer ([email protected]) is a UW student.