An eerie quiet at Rochester Institute of Technology

An eerie quiet at Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology, back lawn of Liberal Arts Hall, April 20th, 2020. Except where indicated all photos by David Kramer. In background is a Henry Moore sculpture.

Henry Moore, Three Piece Reclining Figure No. 1, 1962. As discussed in the Behind the Bricks website, “this piece was purchased right after the move in 1968 [to Henrietta] but dates all the way back to 1962. It was originally placed in front of Max Lowenthal Hall and just recently was relocated to the back lawn of Liberal Arts Hall.”

Recently, I’ve made excursions to four mostly deserted educational campuses: a high school, a two-year college, a four-year college, university and institute. [SEE SERIES AT END] 

Yesterday, I visited Rochester Institute of Technology where I had been a few weeks earlier. Then, RIT was in the process of closing after an extended spring break. As some students had not yet moved out of the dorms, compared to yesterday, I saw a fair amount of activity. I spoke with two international students — unable  to return to their home countries — playing basketball.

Yesterday, in an hour stay, besides groundskeepers and security officers, I counted less than 25 people. Four or five were walking the track at the sports fields.

I met John Lowengrauth ’23 who was not asked to leave his off campus apartment. John and a group of friends were in Toronto for spring break (luckily all were safe). Upon his return, John witnessed the hectic scene of dorm dwellers packing up and moving out within a stretch of a few days. John is from Long Island where his mother is a hospital administrator.  She’s had enough experience with the covid epidemic to recommend John stay in Rochester.

John Lowengrauth ’23

John is doing pretty well. As an electrical engineering student, John’s on-line classes are manageable, although he misses hashing over problem sets with his peers in the Java Wally’s cafe in the library. And a ZOOM happy hour is not the same as a fraternity or sorority bash.

Six other students live in his apartment complex; John says they are just about the only people he regularly sees on campus.  Having a big refrigerator not allowed in the dorms, John survives on food runs to Wegmans. Needing to wear face protection, John dons a neon bandana he normally uses at RIT’s legendary and now cancelled Human vs. Zombies games — moderated tag played with nerf blasters.

Humans vs. Zombies, 2014. Note the neon bandanas that come in handy during a pandemic. (RIT NEWS)

John has noticed a few people at the basketball courts. In fact, on my return, I spotted five guys shooting hoops.

In the 2000s, I taught the Senior Seminar, the Writing Seminar and Cultural Studies at RIT, including a stint at RIT’s satellite campus, the American University of Kosovo, in Pristina, Kosovo. (see From Tirana with love. And a dash of Pristina.)

My most vivid outdoor memory was then President Albert Simone’s annual stickball game for staff, faculty and students. As I am a baseball and softball umpire, I volunteered to make calls. Even though umpires don’t use whistles, now former Associate Director of Athletics Alexander “Lex” Sleeman gave me one to blow when a runner scored. The game was played at the lot on the corner of Fox Lane and Clark Road near the Gordon Field House. Given the characteristics of the field — boulders and trees in play and a “short porch” building wall in the outfield — the game had multiple weird rules — invented by Al — that I needed to master and interpret.

(left) the Albert J. and Carolie R. Simone Plaza; (right) the unofficial Simone Field, site of the stickball games.

For a man his age, Al swung a stickball bat with (presidential?) authority. During the game, it is possible the pitcher lobbed Al meatballs. However, viewed from my umpiring perch, the apparent meatballs may well have been an optical illusion.  The opposing team — some from the Office of the President — offered encouraging cheers directed at Al perhaps slightly more than to the other players.

As Al would have demanded, I was determined to only make just calls. While Al did score several runs — celebrated with the blowing of the whistle given to me by Lex — there were no close plays at the plate, so my integrity went untested.

Before taking the full campus excursion, see some RIT people who appear in Talker.

(left) Prof. Erin Green, public policy, BA and MS, RIT, from AUK YEARBOOK 2008; (right) with Bob Finnerty’s mineral map of Kosovo from his 2012 trip to AUK. From Tirana with love. And a dash of Pristina.

(left) Dr. Barry Culhane, Executive Assistant to the President, from Women (not many) at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Timeline in Highland Park; (center) Bob Finnerty, Associate Vice President of University Communications, with with 2012 AUK yearbook and mineral map of Kosovo, from From Tirana with love. And a dash of Pristina.; (right) Professor of English emeritus John Roche from RIT’s John Roche offers “Orange Golem” and “Trumped.” And the Donald’s parting shots. and Trump resigns; squeezed out of White House

(left) (l-r) Eric T. Kunsman, Lecturer in NTID’s Visual Communication Studies and Michael Riordan, Program Chair of the Media Arts and Technology BS from Teaching in the midst of tragedy at Gallery R; (right) Dr. Elizabeth Hallmark, SYFE Assistant Director with David Kramer, see “See Your Future Experience:” RIT and Charlotte complete innovative mentor program.  [photo from Rochester School Board candidate Liz Hallmark rightly and singularly sees substitute teachers as a rich and untapped resource]

(left) Professor of English emeritus Sam Abrams; (center) RIT Students Rally in Support of the Rochester Cannabis Coalition, May 1998; (right) Chris Maj, 2005 Rochester Mayoral candidate. From “Man’s experience with marijuana had no negative effects”– Democrat and Chronicle, December 22nd, 2018

(left)(l-r) Emily Bellinger, MFA RIT, Jia Wang, MFA RIT, David Kramer from Recent R.I.T. MFA graduate Emily Bellinger breaks the boundaries of quilting at Gallery 4 – 8 in the Anderson Arts Building; (right)(l-r) David Kramer, Krit Upra, dual degree in Fine Art Photography and Biomedical Photography, RIT, from Krit Upra, one of Rochester’s emerging artists given a stage at Gallery 4 – 8 in the Anderson Arts Building and Krit Upra; A Magnificent Photographer In His Peak

The baseball season is cancelled

Outside and inside the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building. (left) 4/20/20; (center and left) October, 2016 from LBJ and RFK in Rochester, October 15th,1964

Bike racks by the empty dorms. Note that I brought my mask.

Albert Paley’s The Sentinel in background

A few years, for 70 years ago today when Jackie Robinson broke the color line at Red Wings Stadium, I needed a hard copy of a 2007 essay I had written on Robinson for About Time Magazine. Of all the local libraries, only Wallace held bound copies of the magazine (that is now only digital).

Outside and inside the Wallace Library. (right) David Kramer, About Time Magazine/Vol. XXXV (2007) No. 5-6 p.35 [Held and scanned courtesy of the Rochester Institute of Rochester’s Wallace Library] From Remembering April 4th, 1968 and the Civil Rights Movement at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park

Professor of Philosophy Timothy Engström took the photo outside Liberal Arts Hall. Tim explained that faculty were asked only to visit campus when necessary. I hadn’t seen Tim in many years. I learned he still rides his vintage roadster to school. He did so today, with the top down. Alas, the barber who cuts my hair and trims or shaves off my beard has shuttered his doors.

On Tuesday, Democrat and Chronicle columnist Jim Memmott, “Sheltered in place, hair-cutting issues hit home: try DIY or let nature run wild?”, offers some advice on do it yourself haircuts. I’ve chosen the latter: Let Nature Run Wild.

The RIT Tiger Statue

These groundskeepers estimate between 100 – 200 mostly international students are still on campus. That Monday afternoon, I was the 5th or 6th person like myself they had seen just walking around campus. Given the circumstances, they said they were happy to still have jobs.


As with McQuaid Jesuit High School, Nazareth College and the University of Rochester, an eerie silence pervaded the campus. As with the other schools, the experience was again somewhat surreal. The afternoon felt very much like a sleepy summer sunday when many are on vacation: the libraries and eateries closed; people taking it easy. Yet, in the virtual cloud around me was a whirl of intellectual activity like any day during a hectic semester. Only I could only imagine, not see, the hum.

The campuses 

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

An eerie quiet at St. John Fisher College

An eerie quiet at Monroe Community College

An eerie quiet at the University of Rochester

An Eerie Quiet at Nazareth College, Part Two, by Ian Richard Schaefer

An eerie quiet at Nazareth College

An eerie quiet at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Brighton

About The Author

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 and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. 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, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. 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.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts