Carnegie Mellon University -- PIttsburgh, Pennsylvania
Common reaction to a first time CMU visitor: “Boy, Hamerschlag Hall sure is one stately looking building!” Then you remember you’re in Pittsburgh, where the architectural modus operandi is to make everything look like a turn-of-the-century train station. At CMU, there is still a sense of decorum in designing a campus like a 19th century industrialist would. Anyway, it takes a certain type of rich, brainiac sadomasochist hell bent on becoming an engineer go to school in a city that averages only 59 sunny days per year. Allow College Prowler to explain the concept of “CMU Goggles”:
“At CMU, it is very important to become familiar with something called, "CMU goggles." Similar to beer goggles, the longer you wear your CMU goggles, the more attractive the campus becomes. Obviously, these are not literal "goggles"; however, the longer students are at CMU, the more frequent that a 5 or 6 in the outside world becomes an 8 or 9 (usually if people would describe someone as a 10, they really are—there's no hiding hotness like that). The reasons for these goggles are varied. Some would say it's because you get used to the people and decide that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. However, most are pretty optimistic about their fellow students. CMU goggles exist for most students because they have just come to know the people behind the looks. Students agree that everyone here is driven, talented, and intelligent, and a large portion are truly friendly and outgoing—you'll find that the looks don't matter as much after a few years.”
For further comment, we refer you to Urban Dictionary.
Case Western -- Cleveland, Ohio
Case Western achieved some notoriety last year for being ranked atop The Princeton Review’s list of “Least Beautiful Campuses” in America. And it’s not exactly hard to see the rationale. Located in the same city that had this wonderful tourism video, the campus is generally as bland as the oft-uninspired weather. But perhaps the ugliest aspect of Case is that for a relatively prestigious engineering and science school (areas predicated on future hope and possibilities), it sits in perhaps one of the foremost centers of industrial decline. Mixed messaging at best.
Rutgers -- New Brunswick, New Jersey
It's extremely disingenuous that the official campus tours at Rutgers do not include a ride on a public bus around New Brunswick. The school's freakin' bus system should be on the very front of the freakin' brochure. Get on the bus, go to class, get on the bus, go to class at another campus, repeat, go home: Since Rutgers University is spread across a few campuses in greater New Brunswick, that's the RU experience in a nutshell. Fun fact: Rutgers Campus Buses shuttling students around New Brunswick are the Garden State's second-largest public bus service, right after NJ Transit. Sure, parts of the Busch Campus are wide-open, grassy, and boast shiny new academic buildings, but do you enjoy living in dorms that look like VA Hospitals? No thanks. Parts of the campus are parking lots as big as oceans, which is fitting since it is New Jersey. The Newark Campus isn't much better, either. There’s not enough Mr. C’s fat sandwiches in the world to make the RU Screw more palatable.
Drexel University -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
So you want to go to college in the City of Brotherly Love but couldn't get into UPenn and feel like you're too smart/rich/superior for Temple? You must be a Drexel Dragon! Existing in the drab West Philly hellscape (the same one Fresh Prince ran away from and never came back to) a stone's throw away from 30th Street Station, Drexel is Philly's redheaded stepchild institute of higher education. Sure, it's a fine academic institution for students who tried their very hardest to get a 1300 on the SATs, but the campus itself exists almost entirely in UPenn's shadow. Fortunately the school's is finally getting around to upgrading it’s architecture from that of an Eastern Bloc country. Meanwhile, the school's two most distinguishing features remain a sidewalk fountain on Woodland Walk (which pales in comparison to UPenn's picturesque Locus Walk) and a railroad trestle over Market Street. If there's a tree or blade of grass in a 10-block radius of what Drexel calls home, we've never seen it.
UMass -- Amherst, Massachusetts
Last year, the UMass student paper ran an article titled “Realization of the Beauty of UMass.” The article actually justifies its points quite nicely, but the premise of the whole thing is strikingly similar to the attitude of a girl who constantly feels the need to tell you that “she isn’t high maintenance”--if she has to go out of her way to disprove it, it’s because it’s true:
Now granted, if you were to pluck some of our buildings off the campus like a single petal plucked off a radiant sunflower in the springtime and place it, say, in a Hadley parking lot, the aesthetic beauty of that single building might not shine through. This can be said of some of the more architecturally brutal buildings on campus – your Machmers and your Campus Centers. Yet these buildings, when placed among the more classically beautiful buildings on campus – your Goodells and your Old Chapels – deliver the same kind of aesthetic beauty one might see in a collage made up of materials found both in a yard of old scrap metal and a yard of abandoned Greek era sculptures, if such a thing exists (and I hope it does).
Then we have buildings like Herter, buildings that would make a perfect backdrop for a movie about Bosnia and Herzegovina. These buildings might strike one, at first glance as being, well, ugly. A building like Herter is not beautiful in the same way the Amherst College Octagon is beautiful. And yes, the interiors of these buildings are often messy. The bathroom walls in these buildings are often covered in amateur graffiti (relieving myself in Herter today, I saw “Remember the Alamo” written in black sharpie and then next to it in faint blue pen: “Remember the what?” and then over that in all caps “DUBSTEP SUCKS”). Yet, a building like Herter, placed next to the grass outside the Haigis Mall and only a short walk away from the campus pond, makes our campus beautiful in a fragmented sense. Beautiful in the way the random circular patterns of ceiling stucco are beautiful or the way the graffiti in the Herter bathroom is beautiful.
If that weren’t enough, consider that this is UMASS, aka the preferred college destination of the vulgar collective known as Massholes. This is a culture that EMBRACES ugliness. From choice of women, to the nasty gash from the bah-fight, to their general world-view, nowhere does ugly quite like UMass.
Pic of UMass George Washington Towers via John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons.
Pic of NC State Bell Tower via Shutterstock.