Bidding Farewell to Copeland Hall (Again)

I just finished packing up my office in Copeland Hall as CTE is moving to the second floor of Old Science Hall. I’ve got used to moving every so often as it has somehow became the standard MO every 18 or so months of my short career at OU so far for whatever reason. But Copeland Hall, you, sir, are a little different than my other touchdown spots.

The office unfiltered before packing began.
The office unfiltered before packing began.

For those who are unaware, Copeland Hall is actually the old Journalism building (with an emphasis on old). The college vacated it when Gaylord Hall opened in 2004 but many of its remnants of its former existence are very much still there. The newspaper’s physical press used to actually be located in the building. You’ll find a lot of oddities in Copeland you don’t find in other buildings. For instance, I imagine they had the ability to make plaques because there is a plaque for everything in here. Award? Plaque! Door nameplate? Plaque! Building notice? Inscribed plaque!

He raised the funds for the building. Definitely gets a plaque.
He raised the funds for the building. Definitely gets a plaque.

I became a student in the J-School in 2005. I was quite attracted to the shinyness of the new building. Compelled by the technology, I remember wanting to seemingly touch everything the building had to offer. Switchers, cameras, computer labs full of iMacs. But, as it turned out, I would end up cutting my teeth on Apple computers across the oval in old Copeland Hall where Student Media still resides to this day.

I applied for a job in Student Media as a Production Assistant in efforts to get some much needed spending money my freshman year. I remember that he day I applied, Michael Wehrenberg, who is still head of IT operations and the production manager, responded to my application in lightning speed. I literally interviewed that afternoon. I can vividly recall the interview, my first time to enter Copeland Hall, like it was yesterday. He asked what experience I had with Adobe InDesign. None. Quark? None. Apple computers? None. He kindly referred me to the online desk of the paper, was looking for a multimedia editor. I interviewed for that position later that week. Now this interview I don’t remember as well. The only thing I remember is that they told me they would pay me $75 a week. I sort of laughed and asked if that was negotiable. The next week they posted the roster of the Spring 2006 staff on the newsroom door. It said “Adam Croom – Multimedia Intern.” Bull! I wrote the editor the staunchest email an 18 year old can muster to which I received the following response (copied below is the original email in its entirety):

“Really the only reason you are not an editor is money and time constraints. You are more than qualified but the two editors that I have right now can give me everyday and are the ones responsible for redesigning our website last semester. I need them to stick around and work out the kinks this semester. I am sorry if I offended you and I hope you can help us improve the site. I just didn’t want to squeeze you for time. Thank you for the great interview and I look for your contributions on the staff.”

(Editor’s note: This is benefit of never deleting emails. You can pull them up from December 12, 2005 instantaneously. Also the benefit of being the editor is that you don’t have post your own email.)

Apparently because I had asked for more money, it was decided upon that I could serve in a free capacity. The math didn’t add up so, naturally, t took the deal. This turned out to be the best decision of my college career. I had a great time as an intern. My entire job was to film short recaps of concerts on campus. This is where I had my first experience of getting kicked out of a concert. The Format was playing a free show in Meacham Auditorium on April 20th, 2006 and apparently tour managers aren’t interested in gigantic cameras being side stage during the performance. I was kindly escorted out of the building. But, man, what I would give to look back on what footage I shot now. A young Nate Reuss pre-Dog Problems!

And while my internship was genuinely fun, thanks to lifelong friends I would meet such as Brian Blackwood, I was eventually offered the production assistant job, the one I had first applied for. My co-worker was another freshman who was prone to performing extra curricular activities, then coming to the office, and, I kid you not, turning off the lights and going to sleep. On the clock. He eventually got caught in his dorm room in the midst of said extra curricular activities, received a salaried job offer outside of OU, and dropped out before he was issued any consequences. I gladly took the extra hours.

My job three or four nights a week was to process the ads (yes, then newspapers had lots of ads), place them on the pages, give one last glance at the pages as they came in from the editors, and then FTP the final pages to the Edmond Sun to be printed. It was a fairly simple job if you could stick with a strict daily protocol.

I ended up working seven semesters at Student Media. Even when I would get other jobs, I always kept my hours there. It was such an enjoyable atmosphere. It was probably the first place where I began to understand what a literal “daily grind” was. Think for a second about what little commitment college-aged students usually have and then think about the commitment it takes for a college student to produce 45-50 papers in a semester. It led to a lot of meaningful arguments in the newsroom late at night. Is this story even newsworthy? Is this going too far? Most of these would come when the op-ed was being finalized. Some times (several times) we were wrong. Of course, being the lowly production assistant I got to always be Switzerland in these types of arguments. Just get the final INDD document please. As we would inch closer and closer to deadline, more and more errors start to seep through. Those errors very apparent in the morning as Jack Willis, the newsroom adviser, would carefully markup each paper and then post it in on a column in the middle of the newsroom. Some days there was so much ink it was hard to decipher what the original version even looked like. But you learned quickly that, unlike class, creating a paper wasn’t about getting 70% or 80% or 90% right. It was simply how about learning how you could improve it, even if it were the smallest of details. It’s as if Jack was taking your raw music and quantizing it to perfect tempo by slightly nudging it into the proper place. Unless you did a truly shoddy job. Then he might restructure your song or rewrite your chorus. This kind of workplace set such a high bar, every other job seemed easy. When I would get asked about “work load” or “burn out” in interviews, I was quick to remind them that I had worked in an environment where you literally produced a very tangible product that ran with your name inside of its contents daily. In my mind, there was nothing that came with more pressure than the paper gig.

One of my favorite signs in Copeland. We're #1! We're #1!
One of my favorite signs in Copeland. We’re #1! We’re #1!

Needless to say, this experience left an enormous impression. An impression that is embedded deep within the walls of Copeland Hall. Walls that you aren’t sure exactly what is holding them up these days. While most buildings have been renovated due to President Boren’s unparalleled commitment to campus beautification, Copeland Hall has managed to maintain it’s 1960s decor. I remember jokingly asking Brian Ringer, a former Student Media Director, “Do you ever have nightmares where you look out your window and President Boren is sitting on top of a bulldozer with his trademark open smile and coming straight for your building?” In some ways, Copeland Hall reflects the paper’s motto “The University of Oklahoma’s independent student voice since 1916.” It indeed does seem to maintain a word independence from the rest of campus. It’s the Austin of OU-Norman.

A pro tip for Copeland Hall visitors: rarely use the first floor bathrooms. Most people opt for the second and third floor. I know mentioning a bathroom seems silly but you become quite familiar with them after six total years in the building and, man, the third floor of Copeland Hall is a special bathroom. Some years ago, KGOU, the local NPR affiliate which is also located on the third floor of Copeland, had the bright idea of installing speakers INSIDE the bathroom to pipe KGOU in there. This is incredibly spooky if the first time you realize this is at 10:30pm at night when you’re 19 years old. At the time, I swore I heard people talking loudly in the bathroom and immediately went back down stairs. But you eventually will brave it and figure out that the spooky voice is just the quiet NPR-y conversations and get used to it. The oddest part is that the bathroom essentially an echo chamber. You can’t understand a thing the guy from You Bet Your Garden is saying and renders it effectively useless. But it’s a nice touch.

The first time I met Mark Morvant on May 21, 2013, in Copeland Hall, it was a pleasant surprise. It turned out that the Center of Teaching Excellence was in the old Journalism Dean’s Suite. It was great to walk around and reminisce about what I had experienced within those halls. After I took the job, I was asked where I wanted to be located and I chose what was apparently once the Dean’s conference room. Today it would barely qualify as a sizable walk-in closet. Yet it felt like the proper place to start a career. Back to old journalism roots. “Don’t get 70% right. Or 80%. Or 90%.” Focus on improving and improving daily.

My second stint in Copeland Hall has been a much different experience than the first. I have come to really appreciate the collegiate experience from my new perspective on the other side. Copeland Hall is right next to Dale Hall, which is our main lecture hall at OU. Thousands of students walk in and out the front doors of that building daily and my window looks right at it. Because of its size, Dale Hall attracts a lot of visitors. One can frequently find a campus preacher there or a protester or a student who has submitted his day to giving free hugs or someone simply handing out hot chocolate. It’s fun to be a stones throw from a campus preacher. These guys irritated me in college but now I realize how completely absurd it is and just enjoy that this plays out within my view. Every day is a carnival and that’s a pretty wonderful life.

All she wrote.
All she wrote.

So, Copeland, thank you for what you’ve been to me. It’s within here that I’ve grown up twice and your nuances have only accentuated those experiences. Stay weird. And long live the newspaper.


Top image is creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by luigi morante: