By: J.J. McCullough and Jessica Pickering
Back in June of 2008, then opinions editor J.J. McCullough wrote an article judging SFU presidents and chancellors based solely on campus landmarks bearing their name. Almost 10 years later, I have decided to reevaluate his original analysis with my own.
JJM note: in many cases accurate information about SFU’s buildings was difficult to find. My analysis is thus based mostly on first hand observation, inter-spliced with made-up facts that “felt right” when I wrote this at 3:00 a.m.
JP note: all of my opinions are based solely on my own personal experiences. If you feel differently, please don’t at me.
Gordon Shrum: chancellor from 1963 to 1969
Current life status: dead
Building named after him: the Shrum Science Centre
JJM (2008): By far the largest and most science-related of the presidential buildings, the Shrum Science Centre, better known as the “SSC” or “Big Shrummy,” houses the many bearded, bespectacled men and women who perform the university’s frightening scientific experiments, some of which serve legitimate academic purposes.
The Shrum building itself is sprawling and maze-like, with several incompetently placed rubber-soled staircases and a recklessly excessive amount of sliding glass doors. There are several floors, each of which gets progressively bleaker the deeper you progress into the SSC’s ominous and dank hallways, until you finally wind up in an endless network of concrete tunnels filled with buzzing refrigerators. You are correct to assume that these are the famed SFU refrigerator catacombs you have previously read so much about.
The university’s most learned teachers of science have their offices on the SSC’s first two floors, which are easily identifiable by their bright red doors covered with newspaper clippings. Based on my observations, I would say that the SSC probably has the most newspaper clipping covered doors on campus, and I advise the faculty to publicize this fact more prominently in recruitment brochures.
The lower floors are cellar-like, and often contain enormous, horrifying piles of discarded science machinery. Often these piles have sad little notes taped to them, imploring passers-by that the mess of wires and soldering metal are “free” for the taking, but these “offers” are just pranks set up to electrocute Labour Studies students and one would be wise to avoid them.
Though the residents of the SSC are generally dressed in ill-fitting shirts and reek of laboratory rubber, during the my travels I was often impressed by the cleanliness of their eyeballs; a condition which is likely correlated to the buildings numerous and easily-accessible eye-washing stations.
Mr. Shrum’s main characteristics based on his building: sciencey, confusing, full of discarded metal.
JP (2017): Other than the chemistry wing, not much has changed in the good ol’ Shrum. I can’t attest to what the lower floors of biology and physics looks like (quite frankly, I’m terrified to venture past the first hallway of both these buildings), but I can attest to the fact at least one office door is covered in newspaper clippings to this day.
Having been recently renovated, chemistry is quite nice as long as you don’t look at the ceiling. The missing tiles show exposed wires and absolute darknesses that resembles the literal abyss.
Mr. Shrum’s main characteristics based on his building: has attractive qualities, probably suffering an existential crisis on the inside.
Jack Diamond: chancellor from 1975 to 1978
Current life status: dead
Building named after him: Diamond Alumni Centre
JJM (2008): If you enjoy eating at a restaurant that offers sumptus meals, breathtaking views, and is also closed, then you can’t do much better than the Diamond Alumni Centre. At one time this fabled building, located in some bushes behind Robert C. Brown Centre (see below), offered delicious, hot lunches of assorted meats and liquors to legitimate SFU alumni, illegitimate non-alumni, and the sleepy, elderly relatives of both. Earlier this month, however, the restaurant ceased serving lunches for budgetary reasons, and now simply stands as a run-of-the-mill bush hut. Proposals for future use include renting it out to a high-class unabomber, or a family of bears.
Regardless, the Diamond Alumni Centre is still one of the more classy locations on campus, in the sense that it is regularly vacuumed and has functional windows. There are some Natives paintings and artificial plants, and the building’s entranceway features a large, reasonably tasteful portrait of the late Mr. Diamond and his late wife, Lil’ Sadie. Although yellowing, the portrait is still pleasant to look at for those who enjoy receiving a waxy, vacant stare from beyond the grave.
Mr. Diamond’s main characteristics based on his building: clean, unpopular, boozy.
JP (2017): While the Diamond Alumni Centre is once again open for students to go for lunch, the fact that I have never gone is probably not a great sign of its overall popularity as there are not many food options on campus I haven’t tried. From what I understand, it’s popular for university events as well as weddings for some reason.
Mr. Diamond’s main characteristics based on his building: often left out of group plans, enjoys networking, fiscally responsible when planning events.
Joseph Segal: chancellor from 1993 to 1999
Current life status: alive
Building named after him: Segal School of Business
JJM (2008): If you have not heard of the Segal School of Business before, I am not surprised, as there seems to be a high-profile conspiracy afoot to prevent people from visiting it. When I asked SFU staff about it, they often unauthentically claimed to “not know” where the building was, or claimed that they were not SFU staff and that I was actually at Douglas College. Regardless, the plot to conceal the existence of the Segal Business school is most unfortunate as it’s actually a reasonably pleasant and well-lit building containing several attractive clocks.
Located downtown, as part of SFU’s unloved Vancouver campus, the Segal School occupies the abandoned corpse of a 1920s-era bank. One of the plaques on the wall describes the architecture style as “revival temple,” which seems about right as it does strike you as the sort of austere, column-filled building one might imagine a virgin to be ritualistically slaughtered in.
My visit to the Segal building got off to an unpleasant start when a horrible little man accosted me at the entrance, demanding that I produce photographic identification to verify that I was a student, and not, I suppose, a Mossad agent or some such. He was wearing a black vest, and although it bore no labels of an sort, I naturally deferred to his authority, as a result of my strict pro-vest upbringing. I was nevertheless somewhat unnerved by this security, as well over 87 per cent of the Segal building simply consists of a marble staircase and an enormous clock with golden hands. Though I did often consider stealing the hands, the logistics of transport were simply impractical.
During my brief time at Segal I was unable to discern whether or not this purported “school” was actually used for any clear academic purpose. While it has several rooms with bizarre, long names chosen to recognize the achievements of various wealthy Vancouver law firms, these chambers were usually full of fat men, often with mustaches, sitting around wearing neckties and sweating. At the same time, I readily admit that I have never taken a business class, so I am unsure as to how typical this sort of behaviour is in that faculty.
Regardless, the stupid man with the vest would not stop hounding me (I suspect either because I was getting too close to the truth, or because I was spitting constantly) so I left without significant investigation. I did, however, find an old-timey bank door in the basement, which was kind of cool.
Mr. Segal’s main characteristics based on his building: classy, secretive, bank-like.
JP (2017): I was also asked for ID when I visited the Segal building even though I told the security guard that I was delivering The Peak newspaper and clearly had two bundles of the paper precariously propped under my arm.
This building is gorgeous but mostly empty of people whenever I’ve been. As a graduate school building, I can only assume its students have better things to do with their time than sit around and talk about how rich they’re probably going to be. As it stands, I felt extremely out of place wearing my beat-up shoes and something other than a power suit. I think the building itself could tell I was poor and wanted me out as soon as possible.
Mr. Segal’s main characteristics based on his building: classy, elitist, enjoys Ayn Rand probably.
Pauline Jewett: president from 1974 to 1978
And Barbara Rae: chancellor from 1987 to 1993
Current life status: dead and alive, respectively.
Building named after them: Pauline Jewett House, Barbara Rae House
JJM (2008): SFU has had exactly two women occupy its two top jobs, and the school has chosen to honour their unique lives and personalities by naming two identical residence towers in their honour.
Residence towers, as we all know, are hive-like structures where the university sticks ignorant first-year students so they may quickly learn the skills of insect-like conformity that will be in such great demand during their later academic careers. Compared to the slovenly hovels of other residences buildings, the the towers offer unrealistically perk-filled living environments, with opulent luxuries such as DVD players and gender-segregated washrooms. Even though this is a blatantly deceptive trap to lure wealthy children to live permanently at the university, it remains effective. This is largely due to the proven fact that extended exposure to DVD players weakens reasoning skills.
Madame Jewett and Rae’s main characteristics based on his building: perky, tall, somewhat sterile.
JP (2017): My oh my, how times change. 10 years have not been kind to these buildings. Increased rumours of black mould and cringe-worthy antics of under 18-year-old boys make P.J. and B. Rae seem like increasingly poor housing options. The concrete walls probably don’t help either.
Madame Jewett and Rae’s main characteristics based on his building: immature, in need of a long shower.
William Hamilton: chancellor from 1984 to 1987
Current life status: dead
Building named after him: Hamilton Hall
JJM (2008): According to university lore, graduate students and undergraduates students may never cohabitate with one another, as their body juices are chemically incompatible to the point of explosion. Contemporary biologists, by contrast, tend to dispute this once-untouched piece of conventional wisdom, putting forward a revisionist theory that graduate students are merely awful human beings.
Regardless, some time ago SFU built a number of separate dormitories for graduate students to sleep and cry in, one of which was Hamilton Hall. Today, however, the Hall has fallen into disrepair and is now entirely uninhabited except for a dozen swarthy foreign labourers who curse loudly while banging hammers and wearing sweat pants. They are largely regarded to be an improvement over the building’s previous tenants.
Mr. Hamilton’s main characteristics based on his building: shoddily constructed.
JP (2017): The renovations seem to have helped this building a lot and I would argue it seems like the nicest residence building to live in, except maybe the townhouses. It seems much cleaner than the other buildings at least, whether that is due to a more mature population is hard to say.
Mr. Hamilton’s main characteristics based on his building: mature, the kind of guy you’d want your parents to meet.
Robert C. Brown: acting president during 1993
Current life status: unknown
Building named after him: Robert C. Brown Hall
JJM (2008): Affixed to the side of the AQ like a smooth concrete carbuncle, the Robert C. Brown Hall (or “RCB;” pronounced “ r’cub”) is the the building that houses SFU’s most cryptic and unpopular faculties, such as Geography and French. With six floors, it is well-deserving of its reputation as SFU’s most floory building, though less deserving of its reputation as the birthplace of the late Sir Alec Guinness. First time students often find the building’s abundance of stairs confusing, as several staircases lead not to classrooms but rather rooftop gardens, or other dimensions.
Like the Shrum centre, RCB’s top floors contain offices, while the lesser floors contain hallways, water fountains, and storage rooms for plastic chairs [editor’s note: these are actually classrooms]. The lower floors are also increasingly hot and uncomfortable, perhaps due to their proximity to the Earth’s molten core.
Though the fact has been downplayed since the end of the Cold War, many rooms in the RCB can double as effective bomb shelters or submarine docks.
Mr. Brown’s main characteristics based on his building: sturdy, deep, hot.
JP (2017): While RCB may have grown in popularity thanks to the French department moving to West Mall and psychology taking up residence there, it is just as confusing as ever. Trying to give directions to specific rooms in RCB is a task I would not wish on my worst enemy. I have often wondered if someone has gotten lost and is doomed to wander the halls forever trying to find their TA’s office. I pray I never have a class there again
Mr. Brown’s main characteristics based on his building: dubious, complex, possibly related to King Minos.
Kenneth Strand: president from 1968 to 1974
Current life status: unknown
Building named after him: Strand Hall
JJM (2008): Strand Hall is the bureaucratic Valhalla of SFU. As the building that deals directly with the university president and his vast array of secretaries, mages, and food tasters, it is the building which all other campus bureaucrats lie awake in their one-bedroom apartments and dream of someday being promoted to. Of course, for students it is a place which is best avoided, lest their eyes catch glimpses of the monstrous cubicle-hell of “professional life” that awaits them upon graduation.
Aside from many, many offices and disgusting washrooms where nobody flushes the toilets, Strand Hall is famous mostly for its vast gallery of abstract art, much of which was drawn either by presidential children, or the university chancellor (oddly, one of his few official duties).
Mr. Strand’s main characteristics based on his building: isolated, artistic, never flushes the toilet.
JP (2017): Fun fact: Strand Hall was once home to the School of Contemporary Arts before it moved to the downtown campus. As it is now a fully administrative building, I have mercifully never been inside. I know this is unreasonable, but I have an unwavering fear that should I enter I would be expelled upon sight for trespassing (also, it’s full of asbestos, so bullet dodged there). Therefore, I can neither confirm nor deny how often the toilets are flushed, but if it’s anything like the rest of SFU the answer is not frequently enough.
Mr. Strand’s main characteristics based on his building: had dreams of being an artist but let them die in favour of a “real” job, stuffy, full of asbestos.
Patrick McTaggart-Cowan: president from 1964 to 1968
Current life status: dead
Building named after him: Patrick McTaggart-Cowan Hall
JJM (2008): Patrick McTaggart-Cowan was a Scottish weatherman who served as SFU’s first-ever president. At the time, Scotsmen were still something of a rarity in Canada, so his lengthy, hyphenated name was often shortened to simply “McCow” by students who hated him. This tradition lives on today in the form of “McCow” hall, one of the university’s several residence buildings not named after a lady president, lunatic, or Dutch petroleum firm.
As far as residence buildings go, McCow is relatively standard. It offers students simple, square rooms in which to store their bed sheets and forks. To the walls, boxy furniture is affixed with tiny screws in order to prevent the dual evils of theft and Feng Shui. When I visited, many students had attached jaunty pieces of construction paper to their doors with famous international landmarks on them, perhaps in an attempt to trick their brains into believing that their doors were magical gateways to Paris or Moscow,as opposed to merely claustrophobia and foul-smelling fabric.
By generous contract, all students in McCow are guaranteed windows. If your room is located on the east side of the building, your window will face the Terry Fox field, where you can watch athletes play softball, which is good if you like sports or are a pervert. If your room is on the west side, your window will face the Louis Riel graduate student residence building, which is disgusting. As is often the case at SFU, the latter fate can be easily avoided by bribing the assistant dean of windows, however.
Mr. McCow’s main characteristics based on his building: uninspiring, sufficient, distrustful of undisciplined furniture-moving.
JP (2017): McCow and I have a complicated history. I went on a very disappointing first date that took place mostly in one of the rooms. There was no second date. I also had a very drunk friend cry on my bosom over the fact that girls refused his romantic propositions. Having seen him drunk, I was not very surprised by this information but feigned sympathy anyway even though it was two a.m. and I wanted to go home. He now has a two drink limit in my presence (he doesn’t know about this, I just leave when he starts to go over).
Mr. McCow’s main characteristics based on his building: unromantic, dense, a sloppy drunk.
William G. Saywell: president 1983 to 1993
Current life status: unknown
Building named after him: Saywell Hall
JP (2017): In the time since this article was originally published, another building has been named for a past president. Home to the criminology department, Saywell Hall’s main walk-way is incredibly bright for a building that houses a morgue. Designed by SFU’s original architect’s apprentice, the building stays true to the brutalist style while being slightly less soul-crushing. An incredibly eco-friendly building, Saywell is not the worst place to have a class and I can’t think of a better endorsement for a building on this campus.
Mr. Saywell’s main characteristics based on his building: bright, eco-friendly, slightly morbid.