Bits of Perspective

I’ve written about Walker Tower, the location of my first room as a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. It was one of the three twelve-story towers OU built in the 1960s. A year or so ago, University leadership decided it was time to tear down this bit of my campus history and now all three towers are slated for demolition due to years of complaints about mold and leaky pipes. Well, anyone who ever lived there could have told you about the mold in the bathrooms. I lived in three rooms in Walker Tower, and in all three the paint was peeling off the walls in the bathroom thanks to mold of some sort. One of the men who lived on Walker 6 in my sophomore year told me he and his roommate had tried everything to clean it up the dark mold and then gave up and painted the entire bathroom black. Then they got to worrying about the possibility of white molds that would show through the black.

In other words, Walker Tower was a mess then and can only have gotten worse over the years. Walker Tower and Adams Center (in the picture) were not elegant or lovely, let alone homey, but every one of us who lived there and who now get together at our annual reunion shared a feeling of loss at the news, a sense of ‘oh that’s too bad’. It had been our home for a while and while it did have a mold problem, at this remove, that was not nearly as important in our memories. We only care about the good parts of the experience.

But I have another perspective as well. My university administrator side immediately thought – ‘that’s great’ followed a moment later by the wish that we had been able to find a way to tear down Jester Center at UT Austin. Jester Center houses about as many students as the three towers at OU combined. It’s a mess too though in different ways. The administrator applauds the decision while the former student thinks it’s too bad. Same event, two perspectives.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I avoided the rowdier bits of the residence life experience as a student. I really was, am, a goody-two shoes, but I did get involved in one bit of innocent mischief. At least that’s what I thought at the time. A few years later as a hall director, I understood it very differently. Two different perspectives.

We had two RAs during my first year as a student and I can still tell you both of their names, a fact that has been known to surprise new RAs who don’t yet understand the real power of the role. Our second RA was more outgoing and therefore easier to prank, than the first. No one would have dreamed of doing this to our first RA. On the other hand, the only reason this worked was because the RA on the men’s side, let us into our RA’s office. He was a bit of a prankster himself.

The RAs in Walker had great living space, an outer office right off the elevator lobby and behind it a large room that had a bay window. People had been planning this and saving newspapers for some time and on a spring weekend, when our RA was off with the baseball team, she was a ‘batgirl’, we spent several hours wadding up the newspapers and filling her office, back to front, top to bottom. We knew she was back the next eveningr when we heard her screaming as she tried to push open her door. She was a good sport about it, but she’d been gone all weekend with the team and needed to study. So we all helped empty her office, helpfully stuffing all the newspaper down the trash chute.

Since it was Sunday night, the bin in the basement was full to overflowing so there wasn’t much room for all we were throwing away. We stuffed the trash chute full to the 9th floor. It was only later that I realized how terribly dangerous it was. It wasn’t unusual for people to toss a cigarette down the chute and set the bins on fire. Imagine the result if that had happened that night before the trash was emptied. It’s terrifying. Two very different perspectives.

Charles Eames, architect, filmmaker, and designer of the Eames Chair, among other types of design work with his wife and partner Ray, was known for his innovation in art and film. In 1977, they created a short film, called The Power of Ten. The opening scene was a picnic on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago and the camera pulls back smoothly and quickly by a factor of 10 every ten seconds until ending far out into the universe. Then the film reverses the process moving quickly back to the picnic and a spot on one person’s hand then moving into deep into the human, into cells, and atoms. Smaller and smaller again by a factor of ten. Each change of perspective provides a different look at our reality at the largest and smallest levels. Truly, changes in perspective changing the way we look at something.,vid:0fKBhvDjuy0

We use terms about perspective every day, but how often do we think about what it means literally. We ‘step back’ from things or we ‘look more deeply’ into things. Physical distance usually provides a new way of seeing things. Time also provides a type of perspective and gives us new ways of understanding our experiences. Those experiences change our perspective as well. What I thought was a harmless prank could have gone terribly wrong. My moldy residence hall bathroom, is now no more than a funny story and those ‘soulless’ empty residence hall room are now filled with memories which of course will still exist long after the buildings are actually torn down.

It’s important to remember the lessons of a change in perspective. We can be stuck in the ruts of our usual perspectives and viewpoints. The gift a new person brings to our organizations is the new way to look at our work and our world when they ask ‘why’ things are the way they are. Their different perspective helps us see our routines in a new light. Time, distance, more experience, they all give us the opportunity to see things differently.

What activities, programs, services, habits, relationships, or anything else could benefit from a new perspective? What or who could help you with this? What have you done lately to change up the way you see things. Try something, you might be surprised what you’ll find.

Take care and happy change of perspective!



  1. Dolores Mellon on May 25, 2023 at 9:23 pm

    I was wondering whether in your research and knowledge of Adams, Walker and Couch Towers you ever came across the name of the original building architect(s)?
    Dolores Mellon

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