Saturday, April 17th, 2010...12:23 pm

Another Thing White People Like

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I’m at a scholarly conference at a small college with big pretensions, where Christian Lander could add to his list of Stuff White People Like: strip-mall neo-Colonial or convention hotel neo-Georgian architecture.

In this case, this college started out as a junior college extension of Oldest Southern College, declared its independence, got a makeover with a couple of master’s programs for “university” status (like putting a ribbon on a pig), and a subsequent reconstruction as a Public University with a Private Liberal Arts ethos (which is what I thought Oldest Southern College still is [it keeps “college” in its name, but is really a doctoral-granting university]).

So a mad building boom over the past ten years, and dorms, library (named after the president and his wife), and other buildings in Collegiate Colonial style (like Oldest Southern College). But the buildings have that bland inoffensiveness that one associates with banks, pretentious hotels, or evangelical churches: lots of pediments, oversize decorative columns, an absurdly tall cupola, creamy white walls. The library’s marbled foyer and grand staircase remind one of a hotel, but they may be because hotels are the only buildings that still try to be grand. Outside the new performing arts center, cigarette urns are Home Depot planters filled with sand. The windows appear to be vinyl-framed double-paned, ecological but like the brick facades flat and textureless.

When their children can’t get into Oldest Southern College, the exurban Republicans can feel comfortable about their children attending here. Inoffensive, textureless, lacking in detail or real history.


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