University Of Texas

Austin, TX: “Psycho” “No skinheads in Mokook Town” “Stephanie, we love you. R.I.P.”

Emerging from under the scaffolding, the University of Texas Co-Op welcomes visitors. In front, a handwritten classified in the cement announces that Faust is looking for the devil.

Guadalupe Street is not the only unfriendly feature of the University of Texas at Austin campus. Yes, the buildings are pretty. But the most beautiful and serene, with soft green decor and wrought iron balconies, is named Ransom Hall. Others are Battle Hall, Rainey Hall, Jester Center. And they do jest on this rainy afternoon though now the air is simply oppressive and dank.

The happy family unit standing before the business center, already preparing students for their soon-to-be-everyday walks into generic glass skyscrapers, reminds you that money is still the key to success. But only a block away, a church advertises seminars on maintaining marriage, life partnerships, and intimate relationships.

Passing a courtyard of covered tables that provide no shelter from the rain, the clock in the University Tower rings the quarter hour. The ringing beckons toward this monstrous edifice. Great men gaze from the entrance. George Washington serves to remind you of freedom, Jefferson Davis of rebellion, and Woodrow Wilson of ideals.

But the massive presence of the University Tower, designed to inspire reverence and a personal sense of importance, glares sternly from its elated status in the near-heavens. In one’s mind, the tower easily becomes The Establishment. The clock’s face watches over the campus like Big Brother, reminding us always that there is so little time, so many little things to which we must scurry under its looming face. People hurry across the granite, imposed upon.

Beyond the tower, wilted flowers invite people inside the Undergraduate Library where the undirected can seek guidance by descending into the bowels under this granite structure. Sneakers squeak impatiently across the floor as a group of young men try to outdo each other’s “strange experiments” in hushed, impatient voices. Outside, a saxophone sings of faith in its talent and the charity of others, but is diminished by the passing busses that do not care.

Walking beyond the ironically unimpressively designed architecture building, the outdoor student center invites “spontaneous use” “without reservations.” Rising over the courtyard, a mysterious octagonal building provokes questions about what goes on behind its windowless walls. The only apparent signs read “Do Not Enter.”

Expensive dorms seem to smirk at a Jester Center resident, who turns left on 21st, passes an infested pay phone and a Jeep with its radio torn out, and bitterly returns to the cool discomfort of the dormitory. f

Reviewed in 1997