May 16, 2018

Someone at this university library should have read 1984


The University of London’s Senate House.

Hofstra University, in the Long Island town of Hempstead, is a relatively young university—founded just eighty-three years ago—and its campus, which spans both sides of a four-lane turnpike, boasts a fairly odd combination of architectural styles. The Axinn Library, a blackout-prone, brutalist eyesore and the tallest building on campus, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last winter — an event faculty, staff, and students all totally ignored. Until now, when it was suddenly observed that the school had created this graphic to celebrate the occasion:

That’s right, to celebrate the library’s birthday, Hofstra chose a quote from 1984 about Oceania’s Ministry of Truth — the central propaganda agency, tasked with the continual revision of history to suit the needs of the Party. (The English majors can tell you this is an example of irony.) In the book, the façade is adorned with the slogans “WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” To this monstrosity, Hofstra has compared its library — you know, the building that houses the Honors College, the Provost’s office, and a whole lot of books on each of its eleven floors.

(Orwell’s description of the edifice was reportedly based on University of London’s art deco Senate House.)

It’s hard to imagine how this happened. Had someone remembered the quote but forgotten the context? Was a prank being played? Was a disgruntled employee trying to get fired? Had there been an incautious Google search? How does a thing like this happen?

Whatever it was, bad move, Hofstra. Next time, run it by the English Department first. Or, you know, do the reading.



Sarah Robbins is an intern at Melville House.