Morning Wood: Exclusive: Chancellor Subbaswamy talks his plans for a gold-plated library

The building is inspired by the film ‘Skyscraper’


(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

By Jeffery Melvin McBulgerton, Morning Wood Staff

This past February, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy unveiled his ambitious five-year strategic plan for the University of Massachusetts. The project’s title, ‘Be Ambitious: A Vision For The Future,” reflects Subaswammy’s goal to elevate the UMass system into the upper echelon of public research universities. The Isenberg School of Management’s new “Innovation Hub” was completed this past winter and construction projects are now underway to create a revamped Student Union and an expanded Worcester Dining Commons. Last week, the Collegian sat down with Chancellor Subbaswamy at his residence to discuss his current endeavor: a 4,000-foot-tall, gold-plated library. The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

JM: What will the new library be called?

KS: I’m trying to keep it tasteful, so the other board members and I decided to name the building the “W.E.B Dubois Super-Gigantic BASE Jumping Facility/Library.” Right off the bat, I should mention that the roof will be a fully-functioning parachuting facility and helicopter landing zone.

JM: I heard that this particular project was inspired by a movie you saw last year?

KS: Yes. “Skyscraper,” starring The Rock. I’m like, totally crazy for Dwayne Johnson. I think it’s his arms. Or his legs. There’s no bad part of him, he’s a flawless human being. I purchased a Dwayne Johnson body pillow last year. I think my wife was like, a little weirded out, but she understands, and now Dwayne shares the bed with us. But anyway, it was “Skyscraper” that gave me the idea for the building. Have you seen it? It’s simply a transcendent film.

JM: I can’t say I’ve seen any Dwayne Johnson movie.

KS: What? You’re expelled! Ha ha ha! Don’t worry, I’m kidding, that was a little joke. The gist of the movie is that Dwayne Johnson works in the tallest building in the world as a security consultant, and one day these bad guys come in and set the whole building on fire.

JM: Why Dwayne Johnson?

KS: As I said, I think it’s his arms. I’ve never seen such big guns in my life. It’s super inspiring to me. I was a powerlifter on the side when I was getting my doctorate at Indiana.

(It should be noted at this point that the Chancellor stood up from his chair and started performing body-building poses.)

KS: I could lift anything. Name anything. I could lift it.

JM: Please put me down.

KS: Sorry. So, the library.

JM: Yes. How will it look?

KS: Well, it’s nearly a mile long in height. I’ve been in close contact with our mechanical engineering department, and while they had their doubts, I made them realize that building a structure this tall was actually possible. The base of the building needs to be about 5 times as large as the current library’s, so South College, Machmer, the Old Chapel, all that stupid crap, we’re going to get rid of it to make room for the glorious new library.

JM: Do you think that might be detrimental to the academics?

KS: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of my 4,000-foot-tall gold-plated library.

JM: Ah. Well since you brought it up, I wanted to ask about the gold-plating facet to this project. How did that come into play?

KS: I mean, it simply has not been attempted by anyone. They told me it was impossible, that it was stupid, that it was a waste of my time. But my haters are my motivators. Having the tallest building in the world on your campus is one thing, but gold-plating it? Sheesh. They said I was crazy. They laughed at me. Who’s laughing now? My 4,000-foot-tall, gold-plated library. That’s who.

JM: The cost of constructing this building must be exorbitant. How will you be able to pay for it?

KS: I’m glad you asked. I begged and begged and begged Governor Charlie Baker for the cash infusion, but he simply said that there wouldn’t be enough money in the state budget even if you multiplied it by 10. Luckily, there’s one place that has more money than they even know what to do with: “Wings Over Amherst.”

JM: They have enough cash to help pay for the construction of a gold-plated skyscraper? A chicken wing restaurant?

KS: You’re really surprised? Think of how many boys and girls order wings by the pound on weekends. I’m surprised that the chicken hasn’t been eradicated as a species.

JM: I guess I’m not surprised, to be honest.

KS: They’ll help us build it, but on a few conditions. As part of our contract, we have to install a 200-foot billboard at the top of the building that displays continuous video of chicken wings being dumped into a vat of hot oil. It’ll be a bright screen; students may find it hard to sleep. Also, we are rebranding the University. From now on, we are the “University of ‘Parmesan Garlic Dipping Sauce’ at Amherst, Massachusetts.” In addition, we must change our mascot from “Sam the Minuteman” to “Bing the Chicken Wing.” He’ll be just like Sam, but instead of a smiling colonial man it’ll be a golden fried chicken wing covered in hot sauce.

JM: Do you think that any of this corporate sponsorship suggests a lack of integrity?

KS: I’m going to say something to you. I want you to listen to me very, very carefully. Gold. Plated. Library.

(It should be noted that the Chancellor was staring at me menacingly and I left his house shortly thereafter.)

Jeffery McBulgerton can be reached at [email protected]