Magazine: U stands for ugly in University of Minnesota

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 30, 2013 - 9:43 PM

Ouch. Travel and Leisure put our esteemed Big Ten school on a list of the nation’s ugliest college campuses.

A major travel magazine is out with its assessment of the nation’s ugliest college campuses, and the University of Minnesota takes quite the rhetorical slicing and dicing.

“Sprawling commuter campuses like the University of Minnesota may bring to mind Dunder Mifflin, the uninspired setting of the TV show ‘The Office,’ ” Travel & Leisure magazine wrote online, including this assessment of Coffman Union: “The only feature that could make it look more industrial would be the addition of smokestacks.”

The magazine said it made its in-no-particular-order selections after consulting with the Princeton Review and monitoring heavily trafficked online forums where students kick around various aspects of college life.

A backhanded compliment of sorts was thrown in at the end of the piece’s intro: “While our resulting selection of campuses certainly won’t win any beauty competitions, if you’re choosing a college based on looks alone, you’re probably doing it wrong.”

One commenter on the magazine article, former U campus tour guide Madeline Daniels, stepped up in defense of Ski-U-Mah:

“[Minnesota] looks very much like you’d think a university should, lots of columns, a mall for students to study and play Frisbee on, stately buildings. Lots of green space. … There are some ugly buildings in the medical complex, sure, but that hardly warrants calling the entire school ugly. It never even crossed my mind as a ­student there that anyone would find it unattractive.”

Daniels, a 2010 journalism grad who gave campus tours to prospective students on and off for 2½ years, said she felt compelled to post her feelings after being “just stunned” by the magazine’s assessment.

“It’s beautiful in the fall,” said Daniels, who added that she and other former U tour guides have been sharing their upset on a Facebook chat string.

“It overlooks the downtown skyline and is on the Mississippi River. … I don’t know where they got this idea.”

While University of Minnesota spokesman Chuck Tombarge said Wednesday that school officials won’t be responding to the dubious distinction, he did point out that www.thebestcolleges.org last month ranked the University of Minnesota at No. 50 among the nation’s prettiest campuses.

“This campus boasts great facilities like the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, and the oldest building on campus, Pillsbury Hall,” this website explained. “Students will enjoy the view between the East and West sides of campus as they cross the Mississippi River via the Washington Avenue Bridge.”

To see Travel & Leisure’s list, visit: http://tinyurl.com/mrq24lu. For the flip side, stop by http://tinyurl.com/5ujfkgt.

The Twin Cities must have really ticked off the folks at Travel and Leisure. In July, the upscale monthly declared the Twin Cities to be the fourth-most-snobbish metro area in the United States.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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  • The view looking east along Washington Avenue from the first pedestrian bridge. The building at right is Nils Hasselmo Hall at 312 Church St. SE. Travel & Leisure calls the U campus industrial-looking.

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