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All Those Hawes Hall Holes…

Where did late M. Hawes come from? I don’t know for sure, but he could have been from Texas. Clearly, everything is bigger in Hawes Hall. Or maybe he was from Switzerland. Like in a Swiss cheese, you have as many holes in this hall as you have useful parts. I don’t know if the building reflects M. Hawes’s architectural tastes or the administration’s, but one thing is clear: whoever designed the place sure likes empty spaces!

I probably should not be so critical. I mean, I may not be a big fan of huge corridors and enormous classrooms, but what do I know? After all, someone took the decision to build it the way it is, and there are probably very good reasons for that, aren’t there…

My first hypothesis was that HBS badly wanted to deserve its reputation as the “Disneyworld of Capitalism.” Hawes Hall really reminds me of “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” this Disney’s attraction designed to make you feel like you suddenly shrunk to the size of a bug. If this was the goal, very nice job… It’s working! Every time I go there, I have the impression that I lost 20% in size and 30% in audition. But it’s probably even more fun for faculty, who can now teach in those sound dampening chambers where the voice does not travel. So Hawes Hall clearly brings a nice entertainment value… I’m just afraid that HBS might be missing a business opportunity here. Why not fully realize the vision and sell tickets in Harvard Square to visiting tourists during the summer?

I toyed for some time with having the teaching group in Disneyworld-like costumes, but then I thought about a second possibility, and it suddenly became clear. Building Hawes Hall this way was just another step in the right direction: reinforcing HBS mass-production system. When, three weeks ago, I wrote in this column about next year section size inflation and the risk of building bigger mousetraps, I did not know it would be such an insight. I’m sorry to see that what I dreaded is happening right before our eyes.

But again, the administration is not going far enough – or maybe not fast enough. Why build new classrooms when we have Burden? Let’s do it… Let’s be bold… Let’s go for the mono-section teaching model and its tremendous economic efficiency! Think about it. Only one professor per course (maybe less, with cross-specialization), only one huge classroom, and only one big section… It may be a bit impersonal and some may not like it, but faculty coaching would be amazing! And what about the perfect standardization of the RC learning experience!

I may be going too far. After all, the new classrooms are pretty nice, they have top-notch boards and IT material and are equipped for disabled students. Seriously, Hawes Hall has some strong positive sides. I just think that a lot of space is lost for nothing. What would I have done with it? I’m glad you asked. Well, the answer came to me the last time I was looking for a place in Spangler’s second floor… I don’t want to be rude, but… Project rooms, maybe? Wherever M. Hawes came from, I’m pretty sure he would have liked it.

May 6, 2002
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