The Arts and Letters building at the University of South Florida, named after Russell M. Cooper, whoever that is. If there is a center of campus in terms of student traffic, it’s Cooper and not what passes for a student union here, the Marshall Center. The Elm Street flea market is in front of Cooper Hall, and Cooper Hall is where all the solicitors, student politicians, and itinerant preachers go. Most Freshman English classes are taught there, so most USF students have the misfortune of spending some time in the building. I have spent most of my undergraduate and graduate years in that building.

The architecture is perhaps best described as someone on an acid trip imitating Frank Lloyd Wright. Cantilevers jut out of the building at seemingly random places, offering (as a friend of mine once observed) the illusion of shelter, but no shelter is offered. The entire building is ugly off-white and beige concrete, with all the ambiance of a bomb shelter. (Some USF buildings were designed and are still marked as nuclear shelters, but Cooper is entirely above ground.) Be sure to avoid the elevators, which frequently stop between floors. The roof offers a nice view, but is rarely accessible as they lock the hatch at the top of the staircase.

My regular hangouts were my office on the third floor (when I was teaching), the Honors Lounge on the second floor, and the Subway and vending machine area on the first floor. Occasionally I could be seen visiting the student newspaper, the Oracle, on the fourth floor. The Lounge and Honors offices were moved to another building last year, and I am no longer teaching in the Humanities department, so there is little reason for me to visit the building any more. I feel little nostalgia, despite all the classes, card games, and nighttime sexual encounters, because the building is so hideously ugly.

For the University Experience class I will be teaching in the fall, I said I would teach any time, any place, but I would not teach in Cooper Hall.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.