Save the Humanities at Miami University

Save the Humanities at Miami University

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Leah Gaus started this petition to Provost Jason Osbourne

A new renovation plans to squeeze all of the humanities into one building. We want to make sure each department has the resources needed for its students, classes, and projects.

As part of a plan to restructure campus by major, Provost Jason Osbourne of Miami University wants to expand and renovate Bachelor Hall to be a “transdisciplinary humanities hub,” but this restructuring wouldn’t give more resources to departments—it would limit them.

Currently, Bachelor Hall houses English, math, and speech pathology and audiology. With the renovation, it would house English, philosophy, languages, the honors program, and the individualized Western program. They also want to move the Department of Media, Journalism and Film (MJF) to the basement of Bachelor; it currently resides in Williams Hall, which is home to a radio production studio, film editing lab, full broadcast news studio, and more. The plan involves the demolition of Williams Hall, and while we agree that it certainly needs renovating, there simply isn't enough space in Bachelor for these vital resources. These facilities are extremely important to majors in MJF, class projects, and student interests, and without these facilities, the hands-on nature of these majors would be severely impacted.

Not only is there not enough space for all of these departments to comfortably fit in Bachelor, even with an expansion, there is certainly not enough space for all of the facilities that other buildings currently provide.

The university plans to spend $125 million on STEM facilities and $45 million on a new Health Sciences Building, spreading out the science-based majors across campus and allocating resources to those departments. Instead of creating more resources for the humanities, Miami is choosing to reduce the space these majors occupy on campus, moving all of their departments to a singular building on the edge of campus.

Segregating campus by major further breaks up our already divided campus climate, but cramming all the humanities and two large university programs into one building simply isn’t productive or beneficial.

As part of this, Miami also wants to restructure the university colleges, allowing all majors in the same college to be in close physical proximity. But what about the departments that hold majors in multiple disciplines? As Osbourne himself recognized, proximity does not necessarily indicate that departments will work together. The MJF department is not nearly as similar to English as the plan seems to think.

With this change, the humanities will have even less agency and presence than they already do on Miami’s campus.

Instead of cramming everything into Bachelor, the focus should be on bringing the English department’s classes into the building, as opposed to having them spread out through campus like they currently are. This would help create a stronger community, which appears to be one goal of the college restructuring.

The idea of organizing the campus by categories of majors in an attempt to further collaboration between the majors is a well-intentioned one, but lacks effective consideration of the realities in which each individual major operates. The planned renovation of Bachelor Hall would eliminate the courtyard that exists in the center of the building, which is currently used for a plethora of activities and is of great importance to students and faculty.

Students who take classes in Bachelor study and socialize with one another in the courtyard, and events that further the goals of Bachelor’s departments are located here, such as English Mega Fair and Inklings’ midnight reading. The greenery, benches, and stone and brick pathways in the enclosed courtyard create a welcoming, hopeful aura that a windowless room inside Bachelor simply cannot replicate.

Losing the courtyard would eliminate one of few outdoor community-building spaces on campus that isn’t a table in front of a dorm, and to those of us who spend a lot of time there, it is one of very few places we feel at home on campus. Furthermore, studying outside is beneficial for mental health, and the fact that the courtyard is closed-in helps cut down on potential distractions that other outdoor spaces can’t prevent. It is ultimately of greater benefit to students to be able to have a dedicated space to work with those who share their major, rather than attempt to house many majors in a single space with hopes of fostering collaboration between fields of study by mere proximity.

Department chairs need to be consulted on the changes being proposed in order to communicate what each department needs. According to a recent article published in The Miami Student, Bruce Drushel, the chair of the MJF department, was not consulted for the plan. In the process of restructuring the campus, while budgetary concerns are of course important, it is just as crucial to get the input of people who actually have full knowledge of each department’s needs in order to ensure that changes made are beneficial in an academic sense and are not simply changes being made for the sake of change itself.

While Miami prides itself on “Love and Honor” and being a family, this decision contradicts that message and excludes humanities majors. Shoving the humanities into an inadequate space and taking away an outdoor communal study area only to be replaced with suffocating windowless rooms—while not even consulting the heads or general members of involved departments—makes it seem like the humanities are not a priority and being part of the Miami Family is reserved for departments that are traditionally considered profitable. The money spent on this renovation would be better used to repair the concrete in the courtyard and update classrooms and equipment in Bachelor where needed, as opposed to reconstructing a whole building and relocating several departments that already have homes on campus. Students who feel like an afterthought won’t view Miami with love and honor, which could impact the university’s future enrollment and transfer rates, among other statistics. As humanities majors, we deserve to be considered and valued as much as any other students on this campus.

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