Opinion: A crossroads of discipline and comfort in Bryant Hall

Posted on Apr 27 2017 - 8:00am by Liam Nieman

There’s a heavy rain falling outside. Those fat, summer-storm droplets are hitting, then sliding down, the leaves of the Catalpa tree outside the window. I’m lying on one of the big, comfy couches in the living room of Bryant Hall, waiting for my classmates to finish their tests.

This was nearly two years ago, in the summertime, when I took my first two college classes, one of which was Philosophy 103 in the upstairs lecture hall of Bryant, in a high school summer program at the university.

Since then, I’ve taken it upon myself to defend Bryant as the best place to get work done on campus and the second most beautiful building on campus, behind Barnard Observatory.

Built in 1911, Bryant originally housed the main university and medical school libraries, along with the university museum, reading rooms, faculty offices and a makeshift gymnasium in the basement. The current name came in 1984, in honor of former Vice Chancellor W. Alton Bryant.

It’s changed hands a few times, becoming the “fine arts” building in 1952 and housing the arts and theater arts departments until 2007, when it became the home to the departments of philosophy, religion and classics after a renovation.

Part of that renovation was the cozy sitting room, designed by alumna and 1960 Miss America, Lynda Mead Shea. It features beautiful rugs, well-worn armchairs and a strange painting of a fish and a flowerpot. Without the wall murals and furniture you’re scared to break, it’s sort of a poor man’s Lyceum.

I don’t remember exactly what it was that first struck me so much about Bryant.

Maybe it was that intricately designed iron gate at the top of the stone steps that guards the building. Or that huge, in-your-face globe right when you walk in that spins so slowly you’d never notice, mimicking the Earth. Or those massive, reaching windows in the main room that fill it with natural light during the day.

Whatever it was, it’s kept me coming back.

Even when it’s full of students lounging on the couches, working quietly at the tables and talking among themselves, Bryant is a refuge. I might be working to turn something in by an imminent deadline, but I never feel too stressed when I’m doing it in one of those homey, beat-up leather armchairs.

There’s something about how comfortable and inspiring the inside of this building is, considering that Bryant appears megalithic and imposing on the outside.

With its combination of detailed, ordered architecture that makes the outside stately and the deliberate, inventive interior design that makes the inside welcoming, Bryant is a melding of the comfort that makes Ole Miss home and the discipline that makes the university a rising academic institution.

I rarely have a reason to be in Bryant. Besides that single introductory class two summers ago, I haven’t taken a philosophy, religion or classics course, and I’m not sure that I ever will. I’ve only ever gone to a few meetings that took place there.

Maybe this whole thing seems ridiculous, that I’m writing with such passion about some random building on campus, but I don’t really care. Go check it out and fall in love for yourself.

If it’s a busy day and you’ve got some free time, duck into Bryant Hall at the center of campus for what will surely be a well-spent pause.

Liam Nieman is a freshman economics and Southern studies major from Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania.