Introduction by the Authors
Welcome to the 2001/2002 "Conversations with Campus Culture" walking tour. This tour is meant to visit eight points of "interest" where elements of campus culture can be seen. This tour should take about an hour (longer if you wish to see the tortured life of Leon in its entirety.) This tour is meant for new students, former students, and visitors, to reminisce and experience the history of the campus, to see its living, breathing culture. We the authors are proud of our creation and hope that you, through this tour, are able to carry on your own Conversation with Campus Culture.
Peter Fortna, Doug McColl, Martina King
Like hooded ghouls they came by night and wreaked their havoc on campus. Moving as well-trained mercenaries in the icy September rain they cheerfully desecrated a holy university icon, "The Rock". This is one example of how students have come to define our campus.
Those students who decided, that cold evening, to encase The Rock in a cement block, demonstrate how students have created the campus culture we know it*. It was students who "defiled" the steps in the social science tower, they who created the aura in The Den, the campus bar, which has memories entrenched from over 30 years of student debauchery. Students have incorporated their various visions into campus life, utilizing the creations of various artists to help in their definition of what it means to be a student at the University of Calgary.
The Chinook arch, which graces the south entrance to has come
victim to the engineers shenanigan and their thirst for proving
the theoretical in the actual. An engineering professor unwittingly
used the arch as an in-class example, saying that it would not
support a car. The next morning, April 4, 1988, however, a red
Civic was indeed suspended from the Arch, dangling over the traffic
below. Since no one had, until that moment, figured out the calculations
needed to safely raise the car, no one knew of a safe way to lower
it. What took the students mere hours to accomplish took over
a day for the "experts" to undo, with the help of a
Now, come with us through the labyrinth of campus identity. Understand what these "hooded ghouls", and the like, were trying to accomplish and how the identity of the university has been molded by the students, through a conversation with campus culture.
* The Gauntlet, September 19, 1985
In any conversation there are always two sides, give and take,
understanding on both ends. When the Spire was built, Charles
Boyce and the committee who selected it from 93 entries, meant
the sculpture to inspire and to represent the Olympic spirit.*
A safety concern was that students would climb the legs of the spire, so the triangular additions to the base were added. This was the solution chosen amongst suggestions for a glass fence, a "rat stopper", or 1.8m pillars for the dinosaur-like beast to stand on.**
Since its installation just before the 1988 Olympics, the "Paperclip", as students refer to the Spire, serves as a meeting place and directional landmark. Charles Boyce did not foresee the nickname of the Spire when he created it. He said the "Spire depicts a progression of human movement. The forms of the sculpture represent, by their various positions, crawling, walking, running, jumping, flying". "The outline of the Spire", Mr. Boyce notes, "becomes a spaceship, symbolizing man's reaching out to explore the galaxy, and a steeple, symbolizing man's discovery of the universe within."***
When the 19.88 m monster was first introduced, the Gauntlet's opinion was "Somebody spent way too much money on this thing."**** Take a look for yourself and decide if the Spire is majestic and monumental, or a gigantic waste of money.
Directions: Enter the Oval building and turn to your left into Kinesiology. Turn right at the workout area, and turn right at the next major hallway. Halfway down the hallway, on your left, will be Bob Boston.
* The University of Calgary Gazette, June 24, 1987
** University Archives, Memorandum, January 4, 1986, File 92.012-36.05
*** University Archives, Public Affairs Press Release, January 29, 1987, File 92.012-36.05
**** The Gauntlet, July 16, 1987
Conversations with mythical icons are also an important part of student life. One of these characters happens to "reside" on campus and he goes by the name of Bob Boston. A picture of the icon can be found in the Kinesiology building, as part of the graduating class of 1974.
Bob Boston, a great bearded man like Santa Claus, also brings gifts to a weary student body during final exams. Rumor has it that if you rub his face three times before a final, when you answer C on a multiple-choice exam, you will be right 25% of the time. Another rumor that has recently been circulated is that when a student falls asleep on his or her text at night before a final exam, and leaves out cookies and milk, Bob will bless the reader with the great power of osmosis. This allows a student, by simply having her head in her book, to assimilate all the information contained within.
Need some luck? Give the jolly man a rub for yourself and enjoy the good luck it has to offer.
Directions:Go back the way you came, turn right and go around Barren's court and out the right hand doors. Follow the path through the library. To your right is a wide walkway; The Arch is across parking lot #1, you should be able to see the South Entrance Arch across the parking lot if you go over the walkway between Murray Fraser Hall and the Professional Faculties Building.
The Chinook arch that stands at the south entrance-way to campus like a bridge between the University and the community started its life as a result of a conversation.
The Board of Governors commissioned a bridge to be built as a pedestrian walkway spanning from the University across Crowchild trail to Capital Hill. Brian Hope and Bob Loov, then engineering students, decided that the original plans were ugly and came up with a more aesthetically pleasing bridge, which suited "a young progressive university like the University of Calgary" in the 1960's.*
When the LRT was built it was decided, in 1986, that the bridge would be a "splendid welcoming point" for the University and would symbolize its open minded and liberal climate. The Arch was designed after the Chinook arch, according to Bob Loov, and it represents the welcome warm air which defrosts Calgary in the winter. The installation was seen as a break with the university tradition of gates surrounding campus.
The installation speech expresses the views of the administration at the time against censorship and complacency and for accessibility and progressive change.** With tuition costs at the U of C rising at a ridiculous rate, the accessibility of post secondary education is being drastically reduced. It makes you wonder if the attitudes that built this campus are being forgotten.
Directions: Head back over the walkway and you can see the Prairie Chicken sculpture on top of the hill in the middle of Swann Mall. The sculpture is most impressive as you climb the hill. It is worth it!
* The Gauntlet, July 16, 1987
** University Archives, Installation of The Arch, September 25, 1986, File 96.007-39.06
Sometimes it's the artist wishing to speak to students: in the words of George Norris, the sculptor concerning his creation:
"It is a hilltop gateway open to the sun. It is the pages of a book spread out for those who will be transported by its content. It is the prairie chicken's feathers spread in full array or it is the ritual-dance costume of the Blackfoot Indian. Its supporting members grow out of the hill and tell of interplay of the energy between earth and sun. The spreading forms create a canopy under which speakers may speak and performers perform."*
As one can see, the term 'Prairie Chicken' was coined by the artist, although it was his intention to leave it untitled so that the viewers may interpret it for themselves. He has also described his work as possibly an "unfolding rose or partridge tail."**
This 18 foot high, 4.5 ton, stainless steel sculpture is one of the 1975 Centennial Program works of the University. The sculptor helped design the thirteen foot hill on which the sculpture is raised, as well as the surrounding pathways (which were originally planned with cumbersome steps) and green-space. It was given a large budget as the whole of the Swan Mall area was being redeveloped.*
In closing, we should rid ourselves of the myth that the "metal runner around the edges" has been added to dissuade drunken students from impaling beer cans on the spokes. This runner has been there, as part of the original work, since its installation in August 1975.**
Directions: Head away from the Library and toward the Science Theatres. Up the steps and inside the doors, to the right of the elevators in the Social Science foyer is the stairwell in which Leon makes his home.
* University Archives, Art for Public Spaces, File 96.007-39.06
** University Archives, Art for Public Spaces, File 84.005-21.14
(McLaughlin, Cathy, University of Calgary Gazette, Feb. 9, 1998, Vol. 27, No. 27
In October or September, 1974, the above mentioned five culprits
did knowingly vandalize campus property for the sake of art.
For chronicling Leon's religious experiences during his life without his consent, the charge of Levity is raised against them.
Leon is believed to have run amok. Although running amok is a known felony offense, Leon would have been found innocent by reason of insanity.
In this analogy of a student's life, the above artists covered all the bases: Art, Philosophy, Religion, Insurance, Sex, Spies, and finally, Insanity, referring to departments and circumstances in the building at the time. Leon, in his attempt to reach the "Light at the Top of the Stairs", has harrowing adventures in the different cultures of each floor he passes. Finally, just when he feels he can communicate with people through art (the 13th floor used to be the art department), his creative genius seems to slip over into lunacy and he is lost.
A "group dynamic" conceived at the Den by several artists working late, we know of five particular participants in this "happening."
The infamous include currently well-known artists, some of
whom are mentioned above.
The date is a point of speculation, but must be near the time of a Gauntlet article of October 18, 1974, since this article is quoted as "turmoil, confusion, and acrimony" on the sixth floor, political science portion of the story.*
It is possible that Leon's name comes from one Dr. Leon W. Browder, current Department Head of molecular biology. Dr. Browder has been working here at the university since at least that time (1974), and his life's work is dedicated to the embryonic development of the South-African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis.
Directions: After viewing the story of Leon, the Zipper is just to your right (facing the elevators), around the corner from the Social Sciences Stairwell, in the Science Theatres hallway.
* Cathy McLaughlin, The University of Calgary Gazette, February 9, 1998, Vol. 27, No. 27
Another important part of cultural communication is being able to pass on charms from generation to generation. One of these charms is Katie Ohe's "Zipper" which has been a mainstay on the University of Calgary Campus since 1975.*
A kinetic piece of art, the "Zipper@has become a good luck charm for students since its placement in the foyer of the Science Theatres over a quarter of a century ago. Usually seen in motion, the mesmerizing turning of the "Zipper" is said to bring peace to the students, allowing them to concentrate on the ever-important studies or test writing that takes place in the classrooms adjacent. Located in the Science Theatres lobby, give the charm a spin for yourself and see if it brings you the peace needed to write a successful test.
Directions: Leave the Science Theatres, go back to the "Prairie Chicken", the Rock is at the bottom of the hill.
* Mike Morrow, Science Theatres Artwork, www.ucalgary.ca/Morrow/amb/art/st.html
Conversations are not always individuals speaking to one another; they are often communities voicing their opinions, or messages to vast numbers of people. This is the case with the "heart of the campus", the Rock. Wrenched from the earth in 1968, during the groundwork for the social sciences building, the communication began early on. The faculty felt that "The Rock" would make an excellent forum for students to voice their opinion (as well as drawing graffiti away from the buildings?). The Rock has since become a center of Campus life and an integral part of campus culture.*
The Rock was used by students to vent against the exclusivity contract signed between Pepsi and the University of Calgary. As you may or may not have noticed, on campus there is only one brand of drink, Pepsi. This is because in 1997 Pepsi decided to purchase an exclusive-supplier arrangement with the University of Calgary.** Some students, to show their disapproval with the deal, believing that "free learning" institutions should not tie themselves to multinational corporations decided to paint the Rock with the "Always Coca Cola" slogan to show that they were against singularity on campus.*** This initial act in part began to spawn similar anti-Pepsi campaigns including a move by some students to run for student office by offering free Coke to those who voted for them and debates on campus about the role Corporations should have in the campus culture. This example although seemingly minor shows how the Rock has been used to convey student concerns and how it can be used as a means to facilitate campus communication.
Directions: Keep going west on the path after the Rock and turn right, after you cross the road, into MacEwan Hall. The Den is to the left. You will see the sign above the door.
* The Gauntlet, April, 1969
** The University of Calgary Gazette, "Pepsi Pours a Longm Tall, Cool One", July 28, 1997, Vol. 27, No. 7
*** The Gauntlet, "The Rock says, 'I'm moving'", September 7, 2000
Late night hijinks by drunken Den-goers are a consideration of the powers who plan campus. For instance, the directional signs on campus had to be raised as much a ten feet up on their red posts because students pumped full of liquid vigor would hang on the signs, bending them and redirecting lost visitors.* Drinking lore on campus often begins with the Den on Thursday nights.
Dinnies Den, as it was originally known at its conception in 1969, was owned by the University until it was handed over to the students union, August 26, 2000.** The SU renovated the bar, which was known and loved for it's décor, consisting of old and soggy carpet, carved up picnic tables, and dim light. The Den had been virtually unchanged since it opened, and this gave it a sense of heritage which students were proud of. The reaction to the swanky new Den has been one of acceptance of the new and longing for the old. The new Den has gained a shiny new look and bathrooms all its own, but it has lost much of the coveted campus bar atmosphere. The bar from the old Den has been moved upstairs to the Black Lounge and the fireplace from that smoke pit that was known to all as the "black lung" also remains.***
Take a load off at the new Den and ask yourself if you would feel comfortable in this place with your sweatpants on. Does it feel like a place where many of the top business leaders in Calgary today once had a beer after a long week of midterms, or is it very similar to any other bar/pub/restaurant in the city? The face of our campus is changing, but the stories need to be told and the conversations need to be remembered.
Directions: Drink Beer
* Michael Leung, The Gauntlet, Campus Crawl supplement, August 9, 2001
** Roman Zakaluzny, The Gauntlet, "The Den Closes Forever". September 7, 2000:3
*** Nicole McPhee, The Gauntlet, "The Best of Bars, the Worst of Bars", September 6, 2001:4
This concludes your conversation with campus culture. We have tried to illustrate how the University of Calgary's campus culture evolves and how it has been both effected and affected by students actions. You are encouraged to become a contributor to this ongoing process. Sit down and have a drink at the Den and revisit your own memories and contemplate how they have shaped your past, just as the collective memories of the students on campus have shaped its history. Maybe you'll see us there!