An eerie quiet at the University of Rochester

An eerie quiet at the University of Rochester

University of Rochester, Saturday, April 18th, 2020. Amatuer photographer Joe and an empty Eastman Quadrangle. [Photos: David Kramer, 4/18/20]

Recently, I’ve taken excursions to mostly deserted campuses: high school, college and university.

Mar 26, 2020, the Father Richard Noonan, S,J. Field, from An eerie quiet at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Brighton

My visit to McQuaid Jesuit High School, An eerie quiet at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Brighton, was the most post-apocalyptic. I saw exactly one person, a student on a bicycle, and one vehicle, the school’s unused Student Driver car.

4/15/20. Chairs and tables in the Natapow Quad. From An eerie quiet at Nazareth College

Nazareth College had somewhat more activity, An eerie quiet at Nazareth College. Along with a handful of cars and other vehicles, in my 20 – 25 minute stay, I saw 4 people: three maintenance workers and one security officer. As I wrote:

Walking through a relatively empty and silent campus is, of course, not a new experience. On a July evening during the lull between summer sessions, Nazareth is almost entirely deserted. But this solitary amble was uncannily different. School was in full session. Students and faculty were ZOOMing; the staff was working from home. The virtual cloud around me was buzzing with intellectual activity. But I could only imagine, not see, the hum. I dearly hope Nazareth returns to normal — including the inevitable mid-April snow flurry — soon. When only on a sultry summer night, no one is there. (see also An Eerie Quiet at Nazareth College, Part Two, by Ian Richard Schaefer)

As the University of Rochester is larger than Nazareth, today the campus was not as desolate. A fair number of cars were parked, others traversing Wilson Boulevard. In my hour stay, I saw about 30 people, including several security officers. Nonetheless, an eerie quiet pervaded. On a normal Saturday afternoon — especially as slight traces of snow gave way to bright sunshine — the libraries, computer labs, dining halls, athletic fields and general hang outs would be a whirlwind of activity.

Outside Meliora Hall, 4/18/210. One student still around is Xuemeng Rui. Xuemeng came to campus hoping to mail a package but discovered the post office is closed. Including mine, there were nine bicycles in the racks next to the Department of Psychology offices.

During my excursion, I had the same feeling of simultaneity as at Nazareth, no doubt intensified had today not been the weekend. Only a handful of us were actually on the campus, but school was in full session. Students and faculty were ZOOMing; the staff was working from home.

While I feel sorry for drama and music majors whose performances are cancelled and athletes who may have prematurely played their final games, it us undoubtedly good that classes continue.  For many, an entirely lost semester would create serious personal, financial and career problems. Had the pandemic occurred when I was in college, our semester would have vanished, leaving us anxiously wondering when we could graduate.

The George W. Todd Union. (left) October 2016 from Red Ryder, The Stockholm Syndrome and a glimpse inside the University of Rochester Theater Community; (right) 4/18/20, the cancelled spring performance series

At the same time, for all the educational bounty brought by digital technology — allowing classes to continue online — a price is paid. From my perspective, the undergraduate experience suffers.

I am a member of what I call the “The Bridge Generation,” born 1960 – 1980, those who were mostly educated before the dominance of the internet and then crossed the bridge into the digital age. Based on that theme, in January 2012, I wrote a Guest Essay (below), “Wired Generation may be missing something valuable (Messenger Post Newspapers and later “Then and Now”, (Brown Alumni Magazine,  March/April, 2012), drawing on Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot set at my university, Brown, in 1982, my half-freshman and half-sophomore years. I wrote:

Set on the very cusp of the digital age, Eugenides’s college students do not: Google, Facebook, post on YouTube, text, tweet, email, blog, Skype. They do not walk around campus with digital phones or iPods surgically implanted to ear and hand. They type their papers. No laptops, no inboxes, no online classes, no chat rooms, no virtual classrooms. They don’t have to worry about losing files, backing up, printing. They actually go to the library and read books.

Concluding, “I think my generation — the ‘bridge generation’ — has had the best of both worlds. We were educated pre-digital yet have enjoyed the fruits of the new.”

Jan 13, 2012. From On “The Bridge Generation:” Born 1960 – 1980. See also “Then and Now”, (Brown Alumni Magazine,  March/April, 2012). For more on Brown in 1982, see Dr. Andrew G. Weinstein finally makes Talker: “The Columnist Manifesto.” Juvenalia or not

What felt true eight years ago, feels truer today.

The University of Rochester has been good to the magazine, see Farewell, President Seligman: A friend of the magazine. [SEE FULL SERIES AT END]

For a piece on the 1918 pandemic, last month, by chance, I was one of the very last to borrow books from the Rush Rhees Library before the 2020 pandemic forced its closure.

(left) Literature and Medicine, Volume Twenty-Eight, Number One, Spring 2009, General Issue (right) Joshua Doležal “‘Waste in a Great Enterprise’: Influenza, Modernism, and One of Ours,” p.82 [Held at scanned courtesy of Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester] See David Brooks’ “Pandemics Kill Compassion, too” (NYTIMES), Willa Cather’s One of Ours (1922) and influenza imagined as shell shock and  Satiating curiosity at the Martin E. Messinger Periodical Reading Room ; (right) library closed sign

(left) The book depository is still open; (right) plaque honoring Donna Niedermaier near the library.

Most importantly, on occasions, the IT staff has miraculously solved what I feared were intractable computer glitches.  Way back when, Karina Banda created the first Talker theme and interface. Dylan Wadler helped with photoshop. Maria Weber assisted with the analog-era paper cutter and the digital-age scanner.

(left) Then IT staff member (left) Karina Banda. From Talker invited to the University of Rochester to talk about Talker; (center) Plaques/medallions, Writing and Papyrus, in the The Roger B. Friedlander Lobby; Shakespeare and Goethe, in the The Martin E. Messinger Reader Room. Image created by Dylan Wadler in the Rettner IT Center. See Satiating curiosity at the Martin E. Messinger Periodical Reading Room; (right) Then IT staff member Maria Weber. From Print is not dead yet at the University of Rochester

In the photo adventure, I visited places we’ve been in earlier articles — then alive with humanity — contrasting them with mostly empty scenes from today.

At Fauver Stadium, I met RIT senior Leah Green, majoring in Museum Studies. The pandemic forced Leah to move back to her parent’s home in Rochester. Given the grim job market, Leah worries her stay might be indefinite.

Fauver Stadium. (left) Leah Green; (right) Steve Duskin UR ’76 and Jenny Berke UR ’76. From Score one for love at Meliora Weekend

Also at Fauver was RIT senior Noah Bogusz from Los Angeles, about to complete a BFA in photojournalism. Noah (right photo) recently interviewed UR food service workers as part of an RIT project, Covid-19 Diaries.

Statue garden outside Meliora Hall, gift of the Class of 1954. (left) Siobhan Seigne from The sky announces the Moon Dress landing at Meliora Weekend see also Fur is not yet dead at the University of Rochester and Envoyé de mon at Meliora Weekend

The Eastman Quadrangle. (left) The UR’s Kappa Alpha Theta sorority from We need you!; (right) From Envoyé de mon at Meliora Weekend

2016. Plastic flowers  placed on the Eastman Quadrangle for a Suicide Awareness Event

Inside and outside Rush Rhees Library. (left) Playing the Hopeman Carillon in the dome from “Ring out, Wild Bells”; (left) the small orb on the weather vane atop the bell is sometimes referred to as “the nipple of knowledge.”

Fauver Stadium. (left) (t-b) Kiara Cruz UR ’16, David Kramer, Jhanmarie Ortiz Garcia UR ’16 at the June 11th, 2016 Section V Field Hockey All Star game. From As the University of Rochester’s Fauver Stadium moves forward, its rich football tradition lives on

Engineering student Kareem Abdel ’22 is from Egypt. Until about a month ago, Egyptian students could have chosen to return home. Like most, Kareem stayed, partly because the kind of internet access he needs is spotty in Egypt. Like all the students I spoke with, Kareem prefers in-class courses. Nonetheless, Kareem says that if you want to learn, you will learn. So far, he’s doing ok, but campus can get lonely at times. 

The deck outside Rush Rhees Library. (left) From Satiating curiosity at the Martin E. Messinger Periodical Reading Room; (center) empty chairs on the deck; (right) From We need you!

Wilson Commons. (left) (l-r) Molly Fultz (Brighton), Jake Forman (Westchester County) and Gabriella Wahba (Brazil). From Print is not dead yet at the University of Rochester see also  I.M. Pei’s Wilson Commons Building: A Contemporary Mastery of Method

Genesee Valley Park. (left) From Promoting Wellness through softball at the URMC

(left) Birdbath and Garden dedicated to Roger B. Friedlander ’56 outside Rush Rhees Library, July 2016; (center) the Friedlander Lobby at the Rush Rhees Library from Celebrating 40 years of BOA editions in the Rush Rhees Friedlander Lobby. And W. D. Snodgrass’ The Führer Bunker; (right) Birdbath and Garden, 4/18/20. See also Bringing back the mid 19th Century at the University of Rochester. Nanotechnology meets local history

Area near the bus stop entrance to the library where free magazines are normally stacked. During the pandemic, CITY has ceased publishing a print edition. (left) Maggie McCrumb from Print is not dead yet at the University of Rochester

Delta Kappa Epsilon, Fraternity Row. (left) From Score one for love at Meliora Weekend

Interfaith Chapel, 1045 Wilson Blvd. (left) (right) passing car and parked UR security vehicle. From Score one for love at Meliora Weekend

UPDATE: Seeing “The Rochester Effect” at the University of Rochester

ON RIT, MCC, MCQUAID, EMPIRE STATE, MEDAILLE AND NAZARETH 

An eerie quiet at Rochester Institute of Technology

An eerie quiet at Monroe Community College

This series comes to end: An eerie quiet at SUNY Empire State and Medaille Colleges in Brighton

An eerie quiet at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Brighton

An eerie quiet at Nazareth College

ON THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER

Farewell, President Seligman: A friend of the magazine.

Black History Month at the Corner

Satiating curiosity at the Martin E. Messinger Periodical Reading Room

My first live pitch of the season

The University of Rochester’s John Ghyzel follows in the footsteps of Tom Havens ’91 (Madison Muskies, 1992)

Celebrating 1396 and the University of Rochester’s Persian Club

2016 Rochester Open a smash hit at the Robert B. Goergen Athletic Center. And the debut of ZOOM.

Red Ryder, The Stockholm Syndrome and a glimpse inside the University of Rochester Theater Community

Score one for love at Meliora Weekend

Envoyé de mon at Meliora Weekend

Talker invited to the University of Rochester to talk about Talker

Fur is not yet dead at the University of Rochester

The Barry House: Victorian Italian Villa At Its Finest

I.M. Pei’s Wilson Commons Building: A Contemporary Mastery of Method

Print is not dead yet at the University of Rochester

As the University of Rochester’s Fauver Stadium moves forward, its rich football tradition lives on

For you, Talker buys the D & C digital archives. And Noam Chomsky

Celebrating 40 years of BOA editions in the Rush Rhees Friedlander Lobby. And W. D. Snodgrass’ The Führer Bunker

Imaginary languages made real at the University of Rochester

Blessing the Boats and a statue where history was made at Edgerton Park

“What would Dr. Lasagna do?” Abby Glogower displays the thoughts and life of a humanist scientist at the University of Rochester

In search of “Progressive Rock” in the mid-70s at Brighton High School with the University of Rochester’s John Covach

Bringing back the mid 19th Century at the University of Rochester. Nanotechnology meets local history

“Ring out, Wild Bells”

From Daphne with love

What the new East will and will not be

Promoting Wellness through softball at the URMC

President Seligman, here are some ways you can help East and the University of Rochester

A personal tour of the URMC during Meliora Weekend with Dr. Ruth Lawrence, URMS ’49. And still on the active faculty.

In search of Julie Andrews at the George Hoyt Whipple Museum

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY and Lake Affect Magazine.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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