What makes University of Massachusetts so beautiful is perhaps the basis for why many think it’s not: the eclecticism and incongruity of each part of the campus. Often, college campuses are seen as more beautiful than others when every single building shares the same neogothic architecture, like Yale, or when it is guided by a common culture, like Brigham Young University. But UMass rests in the center of the Pioneer Valley and brings people from all walks of life together, could it really get any better? The answer is no, it can’t. So why isn’t UMass perceived as beautiful?
Every year the Princeton Review interviews more than 140,000 students across 385 colleges on 80 questions. These range from the quality of food to how beautiful they think their campus is. This means that among the students interviewed at UMass, many of them answered “Poor” to the question “How do you rate the beauty of your campus?” As a result, UMass ranked 13 on a list of the least beautiful campuses.
Although schools like Duke University and University of California at Los Angeles are beautiful in their commitment to architectural consistency and formality, there is also something beautiful in the lack thereof here on the UMass Amherst campus.
One of the colorful aspects of UMass is that each area of campus boasts a different form of architecture, personality and subculture. Schools like Elon and Vanderbilt, which top the “Most Beautiful Campus” list at #1 and #5 respectively, win praise from student voters because each campus maintains a level of symmetry. The omnipresent obligation to “Keep campus spick and span!” inhibits students from expressing their personality and creativity on their very own campus.
What the University of Massachusetts does so beautifully is it finds a way to draw so many individual pictures into one painting. With six different residential areas on campus UMass fosters six different environments for students to create their own niches. Students in Northeast bond over their beautiful dorm buildings while students in Orchard Hill bond over their distaste for walking up hills. Regardless of the attributes that make their living community unique, students from all reaches of campus bond over their shared love of UMass.
In painting the masterpiece that is UMass, ultimately it is the students who add the finest details – from loud hall conversations at two in the morning in Southwest to the graffiti mural located snug in the middle of Central. These seemingly minor additions contribute to a much larger picture. Student-made contributions, physical and vocal, are what add to the campus’ beauty. This, then, begs the question: “What makes your residential area beautiful?”
Chloe Mitchell, a freshman political science major, answered, “What I love about Southwest is that everyone here is very social. No matter where you are in Southwest someone is rollerblading or socializing with their friends. It’s just a very welcoming environment.”
Although Southwest doesn’t offer the prettiest views on campus, it fosters an environment for socializing like no other residential area. Physically speaking, many of the buildings in Southwest are designed so that they hug one another, giving students the opportunity to meet people right outside their hall.
A mile walk to the north of Southwest will bring you to Central where compensation for the lack of interactions comes in the form of graffiti. Located just in between Brett and Wheeler Hall is a wall covered by student artwork. Donned “the graffiti wall,” it serves as a form of expression for students who want to send a message or simply create a unique design. Unlike schools that value architectural accordance and regulated student opinions, UMass encourages its students to add a little to the buildings here and to speak out a little there.
UMass may not have the prettiest buildings, nor does everybody walk, talk and look the same. Butthat’s where true charm of the campus lies: in the inconsistency, the lack of beauty and the gap rather than the filling. This year the university accepted its largest class of students yet, meaning 5,800 new freshmen have come to campus this year to share their voices at two in the morning in Southwest and make art on the graffiti wall in Central. Invite the 13th “Least Beautiful Campus” title, welcome the grass that surpasses the curb and remember the campus is beautiful for what students add to it, not what’s already there.
Max Schwartz is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]