U Michigan Students Are Deeply Troubled By Wood Paneling In A Building Because It's 'Masculine' And 'Marginalizing'

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The College Fix – Anna Wibbelman, former president of Building a Better Michigan, an organization that voices student concerns about university development, stated at a student government meeting in late March that “minority students felt marginalized by quiet, imposing masculine paneling” found throughout the 100-year-old building, the meeting’s minutes state.

The building, dubbed by campus officials as “one of the University of Michigan’s most recognizable landmarks,” is set to undergo a massive, $85.2 million renovation project, and as part of that process architects have sought the input and advice of students.

“I believe it was an off-hand comment about how many students felt marginalized by the quiet nature of the building when they entered,” [the current president of Building a Better Michigan] told The College Fix via email.

“There is a significant presence of wood paneling on the interior of the building and we expect most, if not all of it, will remain after the renovation,” [a University of Michigan spokesman] said.

Right off the bat I’d say you’ve got to tip your cap to Michigan for not kowtowing to these sort of nebulous complaints given how many other colleges baby students over every complaint other than skyrocketing tuition rates. Especially when it comes to wood paneling in a school. There’s something about classy wood paneling in a room that makes you think “Wow, this is a very credible place,” the same way when you walk into someone’s house and see shelves filled with dog-eared books and assume they have to be well-read. In fact, if I went to a school and they had some sort of new architecture trying to look all futuristic, I think it makes your degree substantially less valuable. Do you trust the professor in the wool blazer with leather patches or do you trust the guy coming in cargo shorts and Oakleys worn backwards and upside down on his ears? If you want your degree to be worth something, give me a school that smells like rich mahogany and casual oppression any day.

That said, while I’m still firmly against anyone bitching about a school’s decor choices and making them more dramatic than they need to be, if you’re going to single out one type of interior design out as racist…wood paneling is definitely the first to go. You don’t see a modern open concept design and feel like you’re in Calvin Candie’s house in Django Unchained the same way you do with wood paneling:

I’m not saying every room where there’s wood paneling and centuries-old oak tables has been privy to a racist conversation or two but it definitely increases the odds a bit.