Hello again lovely qmunicate readers, I hope your academic year has gotten off to as good of a start as it has for me. Life on professor’s square is certainly far more eventful now that the students have returned, with the other day none other than Anton Muscatelli inviting me round to help him barricade his manor door and windows in case of a student riot, then we had tea. It was lovely.
For me, the best part of the semester so far has been the opening of the £90.6 million James McCune-Smith Learning Hub (or the “Jimmy” as all of the cool under-50s of the senior management group call it) to all the students returning to campus. Many have questioned the naming of the building, but after a long and tenuous naming process last September, I think the best name won out in the end. It saddened me that Anton’s suggestion of the Muscatelli Mirage of Learning didn’t get through, but it’s imperative that UoG seems at least concerned about ethnic minority students, so naming it after one of its first Black students seems to tackle the race problem in the university pretty well. As for the “hub” bit, I think it’s perfect because hubs are very ‘in’ right now with our target demographics (in fact my teenage sons seem to spend a lot of time on “hubs” on the internet, so really, it’s a no-brainer).
As the Executive Vice-Director of Educational Synergy, Brand Management and Corporate Learning Opportunities, I was deeply involved with the branding of the ‘jimmy’. The thousands of pounds spent on the wiremen statues was a masterstroke in my opinion, they really fill up the place and make it feel cosier, more human (they also don’t complain about fees). If only the university was full of those lovely wire people, making use of the wonderful educational products we offer privately and quietly, melding peacefully into the campus life. A couple of concerns had been raised about what would happen to these statues when the Jimmy fills up with real students, and we have come up with the innovative solution of shoving most of them in the corners where they can’t be seen. Such a creativity is abundant in university management these days.
Now, there’s always been a debate amongst architects and students-who-pretend-to know-about-architecture, about whether we should prioritise the practical utility or aesthetics of academic buildings on campus. I’m proud to say that with the Jimmy, we have done neither. Building a place which looks half-decent from some angles and offers a confusingly small amount of study places comparative to its size. If you love the look of neutral tones, concrete and open space, then the Jimmy is a veritable paradise of… well that. If you’re not a fan, then you can always look out the windows at beautiful panoramic views of the corrugated steel façade which clings to the building like a soggy storm-strewn newspaper page to a Dundonian lamp post.
There’s also a wide variety of furniture to ensure that there’s a study space to suit everyone, from those who don’t like back-support to those who also don’t like back-support. No more boring comfortable library chairs for UoG students, now you have the choice between a stool a metre off the ground or a futon with a 90o angle between the seat and the back. That is if you have a choice at all, when the building is crammed with students from other universities who we are allowed in to promote UoG brands awareness among other educational consumers within the city. The HD stadium sized screens on the ground flaw are also a plus, broadcasting to all the “UoG” students the wide variety of student life here at the university, all 6 powerpoint slides of it. Afterall these screens catch the attention of thousands of students every day, so why would we use it to promote student-led campus events and campaigns when we could just display ads and very important printing information 24-7.
One of my favourite features of the JMS building is the balcony, which offers picturesque views of the city and the nicer bits of campus that are perfect for the promotional shots for my branding material. Now, are students actually allowed to use it? No. Is it because we built the railing too low so its unsafe to open it to the public? Maybe. But is it good at catfishing people into enrolling at the university? Yes, and at the end of the day if we’re not building new buildings to do that, then what’s really the point of building them at all?
So, that’s the Jimmy. I hope you all like it because we are currently building several new buildings in exactly the same style and materials between University Place and Dumbarton Road. Hopefully now we can accommodate the recent expansion of student numbers that we enrolled largely to pay for this campus expansion in the first place, and that this virtuous cycle may long continue until there are hundreds of Jimmies across Glasgow each with its own mass of uncomfortable furniture and armies of wiremen; ready to provide mediocre study spaces for generations of Strathclyde and Caledonian students to come.
[Luke Hills- he/him]