In an age of expansive building renovations, from the new Lewis Arts Center to the restoration of the University Chapel’s roof, one building stands out for its sheer obstinate age, lack of comfort, and indelible presence in the academic careers of most undergraduates. I am referring, of course, to McCosh Hall. My simple question is, why does McCosh suck?
Princeton’s billions of dollars of endowment resources and furious construction efforts have left one of the most important academic buildings on campus untouched. I could not find evidence that McCosh has been substantially renovated in its 110 years of existence. Nor are there plans listed for McCosh to be renovated in the University’s recent renovation documents.
The importance of McCosh is not to be understated. Almost every department and the largest classes on campus meet in McCosh for lectures or precepts (just check the course offerings put out by the Registrar). I am sure that the number of students who have never been in a McCosh lecture or room in their entire careers is far smaller than the number of students who have never been in a building such as East Pyne or Fine.
And in what state is this bastion of learning on Princeton’s campus? Most will know that McCosh is undeniably uncomfortable and glaringly old. The seating was designed in a time long before ergonomics. The desks are too small to even lay a piece of paper down. Moreover, the writing space is on only one side of the desk, so you’re lost if you’re right handed and a professor decides that they must lecture on the left side of the room, or vice versa. Or worse, you can’t get a seat where your writing side corresponds to the writing area. The chairs are absolutely garbage and uncomfortable.
I have already elaborated at great length on why lectures are terrible for teaching and difficult to concentrate on. Princeton doesn’t exactly make it easy on you, with chairs designed to accommodate unfeeling blocks of concrete. I can’t imagine how taller and larger students sit in these desks designed for people back in the 1800s. Of course, I am excluding the updated McCosh 10, with its brand new chairs, from my critique.
Heating and cooling in McCosh is generally nonexistent. If you’re lucky, your room has a window with one of those little AC units in it that look like they came out of the 1960s. You know them. They’re white, covered in grime, and never on? Yeah, those. I mean, God help you if you turn them on anyway, because those boys make some noise. This semester has been pretty mild, but I remember some pretty stuffy precepts in the warmer months.
I understand that renovating a building like McCosh costs money. I understand chairs and desks aren’t cheap when you need to buy two thousand of them. Heating and cooling McCosh is expensive. But why is Princeton busy building buildings everywhere else instead of taking care of one of the most important buildings it already has?
Ryan Born is a junior in philosophy from Washington, Mich. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.