As the Law School community prepares to leave our current home and move into a new facility, it seems appropriate to pause and recall some of the memorable events that have taken place in Sensenbrenner Hall over the years. Professor Jack Kircher shares the first of what we hope will be many faculty memories recounting the various classroom surprises, distinguished visitors, and construction oddities associated with our present surroundings. These memories will ensure that Sensenbrenner Hall lives on forever in our hearts.
My first memory of Sensenbrenner Hall goes back to my time as a 1L. At that time, the library occupied all of the third floor, the second floor had two large classrooms and a moot court room, the first floor had two large classrooms, and the administrative offices (Dean, etc.) occupied the space now used by Admissions. During the 2d semester of my first year, we were in our Contracts class during the early afternoon in a second floor classroom that occupied all of the east side of that floor (now Rooms 204 and 210). It must have been Springtime, as I remember that the windows in the room were open (they opened back then). Unbeknownst to us, Marquette University had just announced that the school would no longer play varsity football beginning the following fall. As we sat there in class, discussing some arcane Contracts issue, we slowly began to hear the chant “we want football” coming from the west. The chant grew louder and louder. It turns out that the students were marching on O’Hara Hall next door. The noise grew so loud that our professor, Calvin Corman, abruptly called off the class. Professor Corman was a somewhat timid man, and many of us thought that he cancelled class because he feared for his own safety.
My second memory of Sensenbrenner Hall is from the time that the more recent addition to Sensenbrenner was opened. I was a member of the faculty by then. Prior to the new addition, there was no elevator in the building and there was no atrium. After teaching my first class of the semester in Rm. 239, I began to walk down the atrium stairs from the second floor to the first floor on the way to my office. During my walk I discovered that the elevator shaft overhung the north side of the stairway. If one was walking down the stairs, and was over six feet tall, his or her head could easily come into contact with the shaft. Instead of going to my office, I immediately went to see Dean Boden. I announced to him that the atrium, in my opinion, contained a clear violation of Wisconsin’s “Safe Place Statute” [Wis. Stat. sec.101.11(1)]. That statute requires every owner of a public building or place of employment to make sure that the location is as safe as its nature permits. The statute has been held to impose a higher duty than mere reasonable care. Warnings won’t suffice and changes must be made to the structure if they are possible. Following my visit to Dean Boden, the contractor returned to the building and the elevator shaft was reshaped near the stairway. Problem solved. Statute followed.
Do you have a special memory of Sensenbrenner Hall? What will you remember the most about the building or an event that took place within its walls? Share your memories as a comment to this post or as a message on the Marquette University Law School Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MarquetteLaw .
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Sensenbrenner Hall will stay forever in my heart. I have some great memories of this ‘building’ (for me, during my years there, it became more than a building). In the time before there was an elevator, I broke my leg during soccer practice. I had to go up the stairs to go to the second floor and I remember that a lot of people helped me get up the stairs. Good memories…..
On the theme of injuries and liability concerns, here’s another memory of Sensenbrenner Hall: teaching in 239 before electrical outlets were installed by each seat. In those days, students with laptops would string their cords across the aisles to reach the wall outlets. When I teach, I am in the habit of wandering up and down the aisles, so teaching in 239 was a real peril for me with all of the cords lying around. After tripping a couple of times, I learned the confine myself to the front of the room. Fortunately, neither I nor any of the laptops suffered any serious injuries.
They say that cathedrals are never meant to be finished, and in that way Sensenbrenner Hall was like a cathedral. At least since the 1960’s, it has been in a constant state of change. Two major additions were added and the configuration of the building’s interior has changed almost every year. As we exit the building next month, at least a third of the rooms inside were not around in their current shape when I joined the faculty 15 years ago.
Following up to Gordon’s observation about the ever-changing character of Sensenbrenner Hall, we should all gratefully acknowledge the extraordinary work of the Law School’s administrators and staff to improve Sensenbrenner in recent years. This was a pretty dismal facility when I joined the faculty a decade ago, but, for all of its warts, I think it has become a quite pleasant (if often overcrowded) place today. To note just one example, remember when the windows on the front second-floor classrooms were walled over? I think it made a real difference when those windows were recovered and natural light was restored.