Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Late Wednesday Afternoon in Harlem: The CCNY Campus on Thanksgiving Eve

It's been a privilege to teach for this one semester only at the City College of New York (the logo emphasizes the definite article, for some reason). Before late August, we'd never seen CCNY's campus despite our long years in the city.

We grew up with Brooklyn College's beautiful Georgian architecture, but we were totally blown away by the gorgeous Gothic architecture up here in the Hamilton Heights section of Harlem. The North Academic Center, a huge monolith which we're walking out of (above) after checking our English Department mailbox, is a late addition, but the original buildings are amazing, even on this drizzly Thanksgiving eve.

According to CCNY's published history,
The Landmark neo-Gothic buildings of the North Campus Quadrangle were designed by the noted architect George Browne Post. They are superb examples of English Perpendicular Gothic style and are among the first buildings, as an entire campus, to be built in the U.S. in this style. Groundbreaking for the Gothic Quadrangle buildings took place in 1903.

City College, of course, was the original institution in the Free Academy, the predecessor to today's City University of New York, founded in 1847 to educate "the children of the whole people" We went to Brooklyn College from 1969 to 1973 and all we ever paid was a $53 general fee each term.

Later we got our M.A. at Richmond College (now incorporated into The College of Staten Island) and our M.F.A. at Brooklyn College by 1976 for about $45 a credit. Two years after that, in 1978, we started teaching at CUNY, at Kingsborough Community College. We've also been an adjunct at Brooklyn College, Baruch College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and since we came back to the city in August 2006, at Borough of Manhattan Community College. The academic world has changed a lot, but one thing that hasn't is that many students don't appear in classes the day before Thanksgiving.

Still, as evening approaches, we're grateful to those who did show up for their Cold War Literature course this evening. And with just a few weeks left to the semester, we're thankful we got to experience teaching at CCNY. It's a really good school with an amazing history.

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