Letter to the Editor: Memories of OSH


Orson Spencer Hall at the U in Salt Lake City, Utah, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

By The Daily

Dear Editor,

I was walking around campus yesterday and came across the Orson Spencer Hall construction site. I had heard that they were either renovating or demolishing OSH so it was not a huge surprise but nonetheless I felt some grief at seeing this my favorite building on campus in shambles. Looking inside the building from the north, I could still see the many classrooms with chalkboards on three walls, some of which still appear to have writing on them. The bulletin boards inside the classrooms also still have papers tacked to them. Going around to the east side of the building, there were vacant offices that themselves seemed still living with some decorations still intact. It felt like the building was still alive when it was ripped open.

I started my undergraduate training at the University of Utah in the Fall of 1989. Then the university was on the quarter system and my first quarter of school saw me taking political science 110 from a Professor Peter Diamond. This was one of the classic lib ed freshman courses where you were introduced to Locke and so forth. During my years in undergraduate and graduate school I would take many classes at OSH, mostly language classes but I also took graduate school placement tests in that building. Now that I work for the university I have taken a few continuing education language courses in that building as well. My best friend in college had many English classes in the building and we would often meet there before or after school. My first girlfriend studied French and I often met her in OSH before or after class, too.

My parents themselves attended the university back in the late 1960s and OSH was a mainstay on campus then, too. When I started school it was one of the buildings that we all had in common. The building has always had a sort of mystique to it for me since it housed many of my favorite humanities subjects such as foreign languages, political science, English, and philosophy. Back in the 1990s, the weekly campus police reports frequently cited to lewd acts that took place in the bathrooms at OSH. It seemed to be a magnet for perverts and weirdos who were looking to have a good time in public.

I guess one of the things that made the building unique is the sheer number of classrooms in the building, since many English classes and foreign language classes lend themselves to a smaller class size and in those days the amount of space dedicated to office space for faculty was smaller. In that sense OSH always felt a bit like an elementary school or a junior high – more of a familiar warm feeling than many of the other colder building on campus like the old FAMB building or the social work tower. OSH had a sense of life and personality to it, a sense of something waiting to be discovered. To me OSH embodied the whole idea of undergraduate education.

So I must confess it pained me to see the fence around the building and the windows ripped out and the ceiling tiles dangling down. I hope that there is some kind of bright future still for the building or if not that a new classroom building can be erected in its place. For those of you new to the university, no doubt you will have one or two buildings that you grow fond of and hopefully if you are lucky you will make a dear friend as OSH has been for me over the years.

Scott Smith

Associate General Counsel

University of Utah