Yesterday, I wandered around the campus of the University of Richmond where I went as an undergraduate. I like to joke that it was at Richmond where I finally figured out how to be a student and that experience was so formative that I’ve not left a university campus since!
In any event, my wander around campus reminded me of the campus’s human scale where so many of the structures face one another to create cosy courtyards and intimate spaces framed by the College Gothic architecture, trees and gardens, and the hills. When I went to college at Richmond, I really needed a place where I felt comfortable and this contributed a good bit to my transformation from a mediocre high school students to a solid university student. I’ve visited a good many college campuses over the past 25 years since I left UR, from the mega-universities of Ohio State and the University of Texas at Austin, to mid-sized schools like the University of North Dakota, tiny liberal arts colleges, and many institutions in between. My return to Richmond’s campus reminded me that the buildings and organization of space contributes to one’s experience of a campus in significant ways.
One other thing: there was construction and this reminded me that any campus worth its salt is under construction. Just as students change and institutions change, so should campuses (and a campus without construction is a bit of a worry).
And another: You’ll notice that I include a photo Ryland Hall which was named after former UR first president Robert Ryland who owned enslaved people. There is ongoing debate over the naming of this building and the signs on the construction fence show that this debate is taking place in both formal and informal ways. If it were my decision, I’d change the name of the building (which ranks as among my favorites on campus). That said, I’m not close enough to the UR community to understand the current conversations on campus. The cynic in me sees the re-naming of this building as the ideal opportunity for a wealthy donor to make their mark on campus (and it would fit with the so many of the more recent campus buildings that appear mainly to celebrate the names of wealthy contributors). If I were to think more carefully about this, however, I might prefer a name that celebrates the institution’s history especially as the building will house the core humanities departments.
It’s difficult to capture this in photographs, but here are few that I took yesterday: