New building takes away from spirit of humanities

By By Aaron Shaddy

By Aaron Shaddy

A new humanities building? Doesn’t that detract from the whole spirit of a humanities major?

Sure, we needed it. God knows we complained a lot about it. OSH is a rusted and dilapidated bunker with poor heating and the feel of an underfunded inner-city high school. Whatever poor sap got his name attached to that building doubtless died of yellow fever and rheumatism.

Of course, OSH wasn’t even the hub of the humanities college. There wasn’t one. I know, some wise guy might say, “It’s in LNCO, where the dean of humanities’ office is.” Don’t let those detractors fool you: We were, until recently, homeless. The heart of the humanities was spread like a cosmic bang between Presidents’ Circle and OSH and LNCO and the Business Loop and who knows where else, so that occasionally you’d get sent to a philosophy class in a physics building some 20 minutes away from the locus of your classes…if you had a locus of classes. You probably didn’t.

We understood why we had no cozy home. We talked about it, perhaps not in public8212;we are a closeted lot, we humanities majors 8212;but openly among ourselves, in hushed whispers and quiet demurs. We knew it was to get a message across8212;we aren’t wanted. It was as if someone said, when a student declared an English, philosophy or linguistics major, “No one cares about you. You might well win the next Pulitzer Prize in literature, and if you do, rest assured we will mention it in our alumni newsletters. Until then, piss off.” And with that, they wrote another check to the science department.

The importance of lacking our own respectable area cannot be underestimated. Philosophy majors drew many important lessons from the former departmental headquarters located in the roof of the crummiest building on campus. We shared breathing space with OSH’s own antique respiratory machinery each time we dropped off a paper. Now, we have some posh, sophisticated building that belies the entire dejected, yet smugly superior character of a philosopher.

“See here,” we would once say from our lofty, Platonic attic, “we have chosen these humble dwellings to contemplate beauty and the meaning of life and whether we can find a free lunch on campus today.”

We were OK with it. We majored in English or philosophy or some other guarantee of future career disappointment, but by God, we were going to do it anyway, money be damned. It instilled a sense of dignity to the whole enterprise. Our humble abode stood beside the dozen massive engineering buildings in silent contemplation, powerful in its timidity.

And now we have some newfangled glass monstrosity that looks gorgeous and shows someone obviously spent a lot of time thinking about it and the welfare and happiness of those who would use it. The cold shoulder shown to the last generation of philosophy students is no more. There is now hope.

Alas, we ought to remember that writers and philosophers thrive off misery. Only through repeated exposure to penicillin can the strongest, deadliest and most virile bacteria emerge. Other majors, biologists and engineers, learn this and other lessons through their experiments. The only experiment for a humanity major is life, and frankly, no one has anything interesting to say if they’re happy. Who pays a shrink to tell him life is just swell? New buildings? Pah!

So please, fail the lot of us. Raise tuition rates. Do something horrible8212;send us all off to Afghanistan, give us some grist for the mill. We need it. No more of this nice nonsense. At the least, forget about us for a couple more years, and then, if you have to, give OSH a lifeline, too. But don’t you dare take it away. We need something to be angsty about.

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