High Programmer > Alan De Smet > Photographs and Travelogues > University of Wisconsin at Madison Library Mall

University of Wisconsin at Madison Library Mall

Last Wednesday, April 28th, 2004, my co-workers and I decided to head down to the food carts on Library Mall for lunch. The carts are pretty cool; a dozen or so small food vendors are there selling a variety of things. When I was a studen in the 90s there are just a handful of carts, but these days the place is packed with carts and customers. Apparently there is a great deal of competition for the spots.

I expected it to be an interesting walk, especially given that the Teaching Assistant Association was on strike, primarily over new health insurance premiums. Strictly speaking, the strike was illegal, but legality and ethics sometimes collide.

(The photos suck. Partly this is my lack of skill as a photographer. Partly this is the cheap, low-res, fixed-focus camera built into my Sony Clie.)

Sure enough, on the way we passed several small groups of TA's picketing various buildings.

Picket line of teaching assistants

Little did I know that the All Campus Party 2004 was in full swing. I didn't really know much about the ACP, it didn't exist when I was a student.

All Campus Party on Library Mall

More of the All Campus Party of Library Mall

The absolute highlight was the robots. They didn't say anything, but they had a boombox playing techno. A few carried signs written in binary. Some others handed out flyers in binary. The remainder wandered around. They were there the entire duration of my lunch, a half hour or so.

People in cardboard robot outfits protesting

I still have no idea what they were protesting. I suspect it was just random street art. Whatever it was, it was gloriously random and I liked it. Being a geek, I had to decode what the flyers said. The text "If you are reading this you are an idiot." repeated for the length of the sheet.

On the way back we passed an older guy sitting on the edge of a planter holding a megaphone. He was going off on some conspiracy theory. It was either extremely right wing or extremely left wing, I really have no idea. Library Mall has always been the traditional place for people (well, mostly crazies) to rant, I was glad to see the tradition still alive.

Finally, on the way back was Bascom Hill, the most photographed "college life" scene on campus. Like a college recruiting ad the hill was dotted with students lounging in the sun. Less like a recruiting ad was a big ugly set of signs protesting something or another. Black human silhouettes announced "NO JUSTICE FOR 19 KIDS". A co-worker indicated that it was from the local Amnesty International chapter. The whole thing was a bit tacky, but it was another sign of life on campus.

Students lounging on Bascom Hill.  In the foreground are Amnesty Internation signs.

An illegal strike, a week long party, street art robots, crazy guys ranting, and political statements on our beautiful hill. It filled me with hope for my campus. I enjoyed my years at the UW, but I never really got the sense of a truly active and involved student life.

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