Math Empo inside

Many of us have sat in the gray abyss they call the Math Emporium at Virginia Tech. Trying to obtain self-actualization whilst beating our heads against our own mental wall, we wait for a proctor to come over and un-flip our orange Solo cups. Five, 10, 20 minutes — the time rolls by as we sit there and start to think the Math Empo is just one semester-long fever dream.

Sitting there in the awkwardly uncomfortable office chairs, we probably wonder why everything here is so gray. The desks, the walls, the ceiling, the columns — all a wash of gray and equally neutral colors. The fluorescent lighting casts a gray shadow on the strangely orange Solo cups at the top of our computers. There’s a hole in the bottom of the cup, presumably so none of us can pour drinks in them or play some beer pong while we wait for a proctor. This is a place where fun is banned and the math is hard.

So, what’s the big deal anyways? The Math Empo is a place where we go for our online math classes and to take proctored quizzes and exams. Some people do enjoy this lifeless place, but most people who take an online math class through the Empo experience something that might closely resemble the first circle of hell, with air conditioning. If you’ve had to take a class here before, you might have also felt a little victimized.

Personal victimization might sound a little exaggerated, but this place can really rip the soul out of your semester. There’s the cave filled with Apple computers, and then there’s the class itself. The Empo does offer help for students, but all you have are practice questions and the online text on the website, with minimum explanation. It’s pretty unforgiving, but at least they’re straightforward with it.

Back to this waiting business, if that’s what the proctors want to call it. It took over 15  minutes to simply get the exam started, and now we all just want to ask about how the question is laid out. As we fumble around on the computer’s simple calculator, the only one we’re allowed to use, we look up at the wall.

What is that? Is that a painting? There’s this completely random piece of artwork hanging on the wall. Modern art has a place, and this is not the place for it. It’s a cruel joke, to put something so intricate on this bland wall, with its twists and turns. If you were guessing that this “art” is extremely colorful, guess again. Yep, its gray. 

As we wait, we reflect on all the studying we did just to have the courage to get here. It’s packed of course, filled with hundreds of us with the same, dead eyes. Those practice questions were rough and didn’t explain anything. This led to what we all end up doing, which is memorizing the intricate patterns in the questions to get the right answer without doing the math. 

Ah, the time has finally come for someone to help us in thisinefficient building. She’s walking over to the table, and just then, some other poor soul flips his cup in front of her. After she addresses his issue with the chairs or whatever, she heads over again, approaching your perforated Solo cup. 

Finally, it’s our turn for some help after all this waiting. The angel will soon speak and help you with your problem. It’s bittersweet. The proctor flips over the cup, putting it back on the desk, and asks what the problem is. We ask our question in a whisper, to not disturb everyone else in this silent monstrosity. She takes a look at it, thinks for a second, and whispers a response, “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that for you.”

Thus, the personal victimization of the Math Emporium claims another victim.

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