By Chron Burgundy
Rumors that the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences will offer an urban exploring course this winter were confirmed by the administration on Monday. The class, a special course in the Anthropology Department, will meet twice a week in the hollowed-out husk of Kresge Centennial Hall.
University officials have cited several reasons for holding the class in the winter, such as protecting students from cockroaches and other vermin infesting the structure.
“To the best of my knowledge, they don’t come out in temperatures below zero, so I guess the university figured this was the safest arrangement,” said project foreman William Hammermeister. “It’s gonna be an hour-and-a-half class, so that’s a long time to be standing around exposed to the infamous Chicago rats and roaches. In my opinion, the cold is a much safer option.”
Dr. Pietry Spelunkevich, the professor scheduled to teach the course, has been waiting his whole life for an opportunity like this. An experienced urban explorer, Spelunkevich is rumored to be the author of the legendary Steam Tunnel Map.
“I actually wrote my thesis on abandoned buildings,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe it, but there are some absolutely fascinating ruins as near as our very own University of Illinois. The Phi Theta Kappa house, in particular, hasn’t been occupied in generations.”
We held our interview with the professor inside the building itself, as Spelunkevich has already begun preparing for the course by setting up shop in an office on the top floor. Simply making it to office hours, he says, will be worth 15 percent of students’ final grade.
“It will be a challenge, no doubt about that. I heard rumors the other day that one of the construction workers actually fell through the floor one level down. Although I do admit, the University was quick to cover it up.”
We’re not sure if he is joking or not.
Students may find it an unfair arrangement, but professors who have been forced to move their own offices to 1800 Sherman say they have considered switching departments in order to reclaim their old spaces.
“This place is just miserable,” said one distressed faculty member who preferred to remain nameless. “It’s so icky and corporate. I feel like I’m working for some kind of huge, money-guzzling corporation. Then the worst part is, I remember that I am.”
To Spelunkevich, however, this is more than an opportunity for a fun and interesting elective. He intends to teach his pupils life skills that may someday save their lives.
“It’s a well known fact,” he said, “that the vast majority of students pursuing degrees in English, Sociology, Anthropology, etc. may never find a job in their field of study. In this economy, they may never find a job, period. I can’t tell you how many times just knowing that I had a place to sleep at night–whether that was a doorway, bus station, or abandoned mental hospital–really set my mind at ease while on the job search.”