In the northeast corner of the Quadrangle, near the Great Hall, one tile on the ground is unlike the others. Where there should be pale yellow ceramic, there is instead a void filled haphazardly with bitumen. Like a misshapen puzzle piece, it simply does not fit.
Questions abound. Why was bitumen used instead of another yellow tile? Are there plans to fix this mistake? Is it even a mistake? I took it upon myself to solve the mystery.
But where to start? An examination of the site gave nothing away. A few people standing nearby could be described, at a stretch, as suspicious, but suspicious in the way I’m suspicious of people who prefer the new barbeque Shapes over the old ones. A perimeter search of the Quad confirmed there were no similarly out-of-place tiles, and a scrunched up Curly Wurly wrapper-cum-potential-lead (I mean, who eats those things over age six?) turned up nothing.
At a loss, I decided to try and interrogate passer-bys. Again, fruitless. I received nothing more than quizzical looks from vet students and firm instructions to move on from campus security.
In a search for answers I walked down Eastern Avenue and decided to consult the resident student politicians/activists for leads. “Cultural appropriation gone mad”, “The Bitumen Banksy” and “the beginnings of neoliberalism paving over the University” was all they could offer.
I was not getting anywhere, and began to consider the possibility that the bitumen wasn’t a mistake. Then why?
My hunch said that the University was trying to cover something up – something physical. A secret entrance to the Great Hall?
A trapdoor guarded by a giant three-headed dog? A passage into the fiery pits of “Mordor” (what the colleagues of Deputy Vice-Chancellor Carlin have dubbed his office)?
With so many possibilities, the only thing clear was that the bitumen could be hiding anything. Then I received a reply from Campus Infrastructure and Services (CIS).
“Campus Infrastructure and Services has a program in place to repair and replace broken Quadrangle pavers. As these pavers are custom made, the bitumen is used as a temporary replacement until the new pavers arrive”.
Well, that’s that then.