January 18, 2012

New classics space provokes controversy

As the Department of Classics has had its members scattered about George Davis Hall (GDH), Professor of Classics Steve Fineberg is glad to have a place the department can call home. But not all who reside in GDH are pleased about this change.

GDH 208, formerly known as the International News Room, is undergoing a transformation into the Department of Classics following Fineberg’s conversations with Dean of the College Larry Breitborde. Fineberg said he was seeking a common space for his department, much like the other GDH-residing departments have.

“If you look around campus, you’ll see almost everybody’s got some kind of a pod or a designated space,” Fineberg said, noting that his current and third office is on the first floor of GDH, Professor of Classics Brenda Fineberg’s is on the third and Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Ryan Fowler’s on the fourth.

“We tried to maintain what was there before, which was not any longer a news room. I don’t think it functioned like that for anybody anymore,” Fineberg said. “It had become a kind of building lunch room, basically, and we thought it would be better put to academic use when we have so much need for it.”

The space has now been divided in half, with the front part serving as a classroom and lounge space and the back as an office. According to Director of Facilities Services Scott Maust, most of the work was done over break.

Maust’s team removed the old furnishings, put up a wall and installed a new sink, countertop and cabinets (all of the work was done in-house except for new carpeting), to a total of about $4,000.

Fineberg said the lounge space could also be used as a classroom for smaller upper-level classics courses. And though it can still be used as a sort of lunchroom, some other professors housed in GDH are unhappy about the change.

“It was distressing,” Associate Professor of Spanish Tim Foster said. “We all felt like it was sort of a community space for the entire building. … It was nice to eat with colleagues and that kind of thing. And then all of a sudden, we couldn’t.”

Foster said he sees some of the merit in devoting the space to the department, but he objected to the lack of discussion about the change, calling it “un-Knox-like.”

“Could this space be better-used for classics? That could be true, but there was just never a conversation about it,” Foster said.

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