January 31, 2001

Profs, Administrators on Art History Move

Print More

History of art students may have to walk farther down Arts Quad Spring semester, pending the relocation of the department to White Hall, despite faculty concerns about the motives behind the decision.

The history of art department will join the departments of government and near eastern studies in the newly refurbished building.

“I’ve been working on renovating White Hall from the beginning,” said Jane Pedersen, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s going to be beautiful.”

Pedersen noted that White Hall with again feature an open fourth floor, including skylights and art exhibits once construction is complete.

The history of art faculty, which is currently housed in the overcrowded basement of Goldwin Smith Hall, welcomed the move with suspicion and anticipation.

“I worry it is a move to downgrade our situation,” said Prof. Andrew Ramage, history of art.

Ramage believes this move may be a first step in restructuring the department according to a proposal outlined in the Humanities Report of the fall of 1997. The report was commissioned to look into the strengths and weaknesses of the humanities.

A portion of the report concerning the history of art department discussed a possible replacement of the department with a new department of visual studies, whose creation could come in the wake of the move, according to Ramage.

“We’re undervalued as humanists … by a trendy crowd,” Rampage said. He added that, due to the department’s focus on ancient art history instead of modern history, the department is less than favorable in the administration’s eyes.

Rampage noted that administrators ended forums to discuss the impact of the report before history of art had a chance to voice dissension.

“Our point was never discussed,” Rampage said. “We [history of art] were next on their list.”

Administrators disagree with this view.

They contest that the department’s move is solely due to the space available on the Arts Quad.

“It [the move] has nothing to with the report,” said Dominick Lacapra, academic director of the society for the humanities. “That’s ancient history. … This [move] is purely in terms of logistics and in terms of space.”

Lacapra added that although the history of art department did receive further evaluations, these had nothing to do with the prospective move.

Pedersen confirmed that the choice to move the history of art department was made for the same concerns that surrounded the other departments.

Since last summer, administration in the arts college has worked to refurbish White Hall and find the best locations for all programs on the Arts Quad, according to Pedersen. “It was just a question of allocation of space,” she added.

“A restructuring of the department is something that will be discussed but only to the professors and faculty … and not to the public,” said Philip E. Lewis, the Harold Tanner dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

White Hall’s restauration will be completed next year.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins