DeBartolo decor is deadly
Letter to the Editor
I note with equal doses of exasperation and bemusement that the cordon sanitaire has been further tightened in DeBartolo Hall. Splayed with comic redundancy at the entrance to every classroom are formal prohibitions on the introductions of food and drink. While I do understand the way in which the practical and the moral converge cleanliness, godliness and the rest I am all the same disturbed by the ongoing fetishizing of this building. In other words, just saying "no" to comestibles and potables is symptomatic of a larger problem, namely the campaign against the signs of campus life.
The walls of DeBartolo glare and gall in their nakedness. They are not allowed to bear a single announcement of events, lectures, liturgies, recitals, films or the other elements which, taken together, make up what many faculty and administrators wistfully call the "intellectual milieu." And while it is true that there is a smattering of glass cases in which posters are displayed prophylactically, they are located such that they absorb into the overall sterility of the environment. Now, one might respond that O'Shaughnessy Hall is plastered with announcements. This fact is, however, overridden by a more pertinent one: only a small portion of students take courses there. (Are we asked to infer that O'Shaughnessy is such DeBartolo's inferior that it is to be the sullied place while its successor must ever remain the scrubbed place?) DeBartolo is where most of the action and traffic are, and DeBartolo feels like a hospital. It is bare and antiseptic, which means that in terms of campus life it is dead and dour.
In my opinion and, more importantly, in the opinion of every student with whom I have spoken about this issue, it is time to defetishize DeBartolo. While it would indeed be scandalous to paper the interior of the Main Building with posters, there is nothing at all sacred about DeBartolo. It is time to animate its walls with the colors, the shapes and the promises of campus life. It is time to abandon vague ideals of cleanliness and order and to let the vital cacophony of information (dis)grace its stairwells. Otherwise, DeBartolo Hall, which holds pride of place in the educational enterprise at Notre Dame, will in its look and feel continue to be just another brick in the wall.
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
September 8, 1999
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, September 15, 1999