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Escalator Installed on Bascom Hill

The new “Bascolator” improves traffic flow and helps students get over the impenetrable barrier between east and west campus.

Aerial shot of Bascom Hill

To cheers from students and faculty, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank officially cut the ribbon and opened the new “Bascolator,” an escalator that will enable students to move directly from the base of Bascom Hill to its summit at Bascom Hall.

The Bascolator has been a dream of campus denizens for nearly a century, as it helps to overcome the physical barrier that separates the humanities-dominated east campus from science- and engineering-rich west campus.

No student has managed to scale the heights of Bascom on foot since Katie Smith x’78 did so as a sophomore. Both she and her Sherpa guide later died from the effects of exhaustion.

“This is amazing,” says Katie Johnson x’17, who was among the first to make the west-to-east journey. “Did you know they have a building devoted to science over here? I mean, there’s no real science in it. Just geography or something. But still — Science Hall. Wow.”

Katie Abrahams x’17, who made the east-to-west journey, was equally amazed. “Look at the people down there on State Street,” she said, standing on the spot where the Lincoln statue used to sit. “They’re like ants.”

Bascom Hill was long thought to be unconquerable by modern humans. Its peak towers 850 feet above the unchecked flow of pedestrians across Park Street. To make such a climb would cost the average undergraduate 28 calories.

“That’s like 2.4 Cheetos,” says Katie Beck x’18. “Where am I supposed to find 2.4 Cheetos?”

Beck is a food-science major. If she doesn’t know, it’s likely no one could.

Still, not everyone on campus was happy with the Bascolator. The project cost more than $300 million and required 10 years of heavy construction on Library Mall.

“It’s such a waste,” says Katie Miller x’16. “I’ve been riding the Number 80 bus up Bascom Hill for all four of my years on campus. I don’t see why these coddled kids shouldn’t do the same.”

April Fool x’18 agrees that the Bascolator has its drawbacks. “It’s kind of breezy when you’re riding it,” she says. “Maybe they could build a tunnel instead.”

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