Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Seeing Red Over Blue Chairs

Most people get excited when they see this picture and that’s totally understandable. It’s a clever business card, one hell of a catchy song, and I’m sure Greg Schneider can even notice the faint hint of a watermark. Most people, however, didn’t go to the University of Wisconsin.

Madison grads get excited too, but they care far more about the background than the lyrics or the font or Mr. Coppini’s nationality. The Memorial Union Terrace is as unmistakable as it is beautiful. Last month a friend posted a picture – spotted cow and sailboats – with a one word caption: perfect. It really is. There’s the bandstand and the lake. The giant chair where people take their graduation photos. The sunburst designs that people incorporate into wedding rings. And of course the distinctive green, yellow, and orange color scheme.

So when the Wisconsin Union Directorate rolled out blue (blue!) chairs this spring, people were shocked. Once that wore off however, it seems the reactions have been almost exclusively positive and the chairs make for a nice change of pace. If you’re not into them, well they’re only around for the summer. You see, they’re a special promotion to “raise awareness” for WUD’s $25 million capital campaign for renovating and updating Memorial Union. The $25 million will compliment the nearly $200 per year that each and every student is kicking in.*

*But hey, that’s only for another 25 years or so.

And that ruined it right there. These chairs are nice and stuff, but now all they do is remind me of that time the powers that be on campus somehow managed to massage a 4 percent “Yes” vote into a nine figure construction spree – only seven percent of the student body turned out for that election.  Of course, this was only after the administration had found a way to throw out the results of TWO previous elections where students voted “No” instead. Each of those contests boasted over 20 percent turnout.*

*For a wittier, more biting review of the situation, see here.

After their role as summertime novelty has run its course, the blue chairs will be used to gladhand donors pumping at least $1,000 into WUD’s coffers. Assuming they graduate in four years, each student in the class of 2013 will have been forced to shell out around $800 to the same project. Just shy of a chair. Not to worry, I’m sure the university'll find a way to squeeze out that last $200 by the time the class of 2014 graduates.


  1. Civility be damned. I want a chair, I think I've earned one.

  2. Student governments, like all governments, are unable to optimally allocate funds. This is a fundamental principle that friends and I tried to show at my previous institution, going so far as to try to abolish our student government: http://unrforliberty.com/2010/08/abolish-asun-a-practical-argument.html


Keep it civil.