Scrolling Headlines:

UMass students show lackluster attitude toward ‘Mullins Live!’ concert -

February 27, 2017

UMass women’s basketball loses in first round of Atlantic 10 Tournament -

February 27, 2017

Ryan Adams perfects his melancholy, widescreen take on 80s heartland rock on ‘Prisoner’ -

February 27, 2017

Exposing the horrific crime of modern-day slavery -

February 27, 2017

UMass men’s basketball successfully drops La Salle 84-71 in confidence-building win -

February 27, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse’s late rally falls short against Harvard -

February 27, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse struggles to find offense in loss to No. 5 Syracuse -

February 27, 2017

With Perez, Democrats remain in limbo -

February 27, 2017

UMass hockey competes hard, falls to No. 10 Providence College in overtime -

February 26, 2017

Overtime goal hands UMass hockey its 15th straight loss in regular season finale -

February 26, 2017

Former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous gives talk at UMass -

February 25, 2017

Anti-racism workshop teaches tactics to fight oppression in community -

February 25, 2017

Providence power play haunts UMass hockey in 6-2 loss -

February 25, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 10 Providence on Senior Night at the Mullins center -

February 25, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falters in the second half, falling to George Washington 83-67 Thursday -

February 24, 2017

UPDATE: SGA announces second and third artist for ‘Mullins Live!’ -

February 23, 2017

Divest UMass and STPEC host panel on building ‘solidarity economies’ in the Trump era -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s basketball losing streak extends to 10 games after loss to URI -

February 23, 2017

Sixth annual Advocacy Day set to take place March 1 -

February 23, 2017

Panel discusses racial, sexual and psychological violence in response to art exhibit -

February 23, 2017

Busting campus myths

I’ve always been into mythology. As a child one of my favorite books was a thick volume called something like “Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece” by some guy with a Germanic name and Edith Hamilton’s classic “Mythology.” I was enthralled by Arthurian legends and modern works with a strong mythic dimension, such as “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings” exerted a great influence on me.

For a long time, I thought myths were things of the past, consigned to fantasy and science fiction in this modern and supposedly enlightened age. I guess it just goes to show that you need neither gods nor Greek men being rubbed down with olive oil to make a myth, because the University of Massachusetts is full of them.

Last Halloween, I wrote an article on ghosts at UMass with information generously supplied by the UMass History Club. I even walked around campus with a giant camera from the journalism department at night to take pictures of some of the places mentioned. I didn’t see any ghosts, although Stockbridge House/the University Club and the Old Chapel are really creepy at night, especially since there was some sort of faint red light coming out of the Chapel. I think it was an exit sign, but I much prefer to imagine that the reason it’s been closed forever is because a bando stumbled upon the Gates of Hell down there. On some days, it can certainly seem as though the campus was designed by some baleful demonic influence.

Anyways, the first myth I heard was on a campus tour during my orientation. The tour guide explained that Fine Arts Center was a) shaped like a piano and b) had originally been intended for a college in Arizona. I believed it then and I wish it were true today because the exterior of that building is so ugly that a fin de siècle aesthetic poet would commit suicide upon seeing it. Harsh, perhaps, but all too true. Speaking of the FAC, I can’t be the only person on campus who thinks that upside down face that was painted on it last year looks more like a giant bird flew over campus and relieved itself there.

But back to the point: The FAC neither looks like a piano (and was never intended to) and was not supposed to go to Arizona. The Collegian put together a glossy magazine some years ago and talked to the architect, John Dinkeloo and no, I’m not making that name up.

One of the other early myths I encountered as a freshman was the famous “Scooby Doo” legend. According to this myth, the creator of “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” was a UMass alumnus and he based the five main characters of the cartoon show on the stereotypes of the Five Colleges. To wit, Freddie, as upper class and well-educated, represented Amherst College; Daphne, as beautiful and upper class, was Mount Holyoke; Shaggy was a hippie and therefore stood for Hampshire; Velma was smart and stood for Smith; while Scooby, the animal, indicated ZooMass. It goes without saying that these stereotypes are a load of bull, but there are versions that identify Velma with Smith not because she was intelligent but because some viewers thought she was a lesbian. Personally, I always thought she had a thing going on with Freddie because they seemed to be the only ones ever to solve any mysteries.

But, this too is false. For one, Hampshire College didn’t open until after “Scooby Doo” had premiered, as Snopes.com pointed out and for another, you could take any five colleges and match stereotypes to characters. It’s like the guy who claimed he could predict the future using a computer program that analyzed the Bible when you can use the same program to pull out “predictions” from any long work, like “Moby Dick” or “War and Peace.”

Some myths, however, are true. In my sophomore year I began hearing all sorts of stuff about Butterfield dorm – that in the ‘70s, its kitchen was shut down because they were making more money than any other dining hall or store on campus because they were using it to sell drugs and that they seceded from the United States afterwards. The jury’s still out on the drugs, although it wouldn’t surprise in the slightest, but in my sophomore year I did discover that Butterfield had in fact, seceded.

I tracked down Marc J. Randazza, who is now a lawyer, but in the early ‘90s was president of Butterfield. He said they seceded in response to the Gulf War and the UMass administration came down hard. He said they were free-spirited and formed an actual community, but administration officials quoted in a UMass Magazine article said they intervened for two reasons: One was that they had reports that there were high school students at Butterfield parties and two, a student was injured trying to replace a pirate flag the administration had taken down. After that, everyone was removed and Butterfield was converted into the freshman-only housing it is.

Today, the Free Republic of Butterfield lives on in MySpace, if you can call that living. But that’s the way things are: The dreams die while the myths live on.

Matthew M. Robare is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at mrobare@student.umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Busting campus myths”
  1. A shame the secession didn’t last. Everyone ought to have the right to secede from the Union without backlash.

    Loved the line about the fin de siècle poet – this campus, as wonderful as the academics can be, was certainly designed by people devoted to demonic powers.

    I was rather disappointed when I learned that the Scooby myth was false – it’s one of my favourite shows from childhood. Alas, hearts are broken when myths are busted.

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