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Brady and Dad

Reflections on West Hall, by Michigan Anthropology Student Brady G'sell

As for many students, West Hall 210 has become emblematic of my experience of Anthropology classes at Michigan. Occasionally, in the midst of an animated discussion amongst a small class of colleagues, collected around a communal table, snug from the chill of the Michigan winter, I think back to my father’s days in this very building as an undergraduate engineering student in 1960. His experience of “West Engine” consisted of creaky wooden floors, single incandescent bulbs in glass globes hanging from the ceiling, wooden desks with attached, swiveling chairs, and cooling or heating via windows and transom doors or giant steam radiators that periodically sputtered and/or banged that left classrooms either stifling or freezing with little moderation. Many of those radiators are still present today and when I see them, I remember stories my father would tell me of "Brandy" the fraternity St. Bernard who kept cool in the winter by rolling in dirty snow, or better, garbage and would subsequently accompany my father to class only to slump down next to the radiator to nap. Thus, his memories of 8:30 AM classes in the stifling heat of West Engine were of the smell of drying dog and the sound of snoring (canine and other) listening to a heavily-accented T.A. talk about Entropy or Laplace transforms while nursing a hangover and dreading mid-terms next week. While the architecture in West Hall may be more amenable, the life of the student remains much the same, though I will take my anthropology seminars over his engineering lectures any day.