English faculty, students await permanent home

by Sam Kean

Based on the words chiseled above the entrance, Lind Hall’s first floor makes sense: Institute of Technology advising, an IT associate dean’s office and tutorial services are all important to a “College of Engineering.” It’s the other floors that don’t mesh.

The basement, second and third floors of Lind Hall house parts of the English department, which teaches more student-credit hours than any other College of Liberal Arts major.

The department moved to Lind Hall in 1969 supposedly on a temporary basis. Since then, the University has constructed more than 60 major additions and new buildings across the three campuses. But the English department hasn’t moved.

“It’s more than a nuisance,” said English department chairman Kent Bales, referring to the instructional problems of a dispersed department. “We need 50 percent more space for staff and faculty, and we don’t own a lecture hall.”

To accommodate large English lectures, the University shifts classes to other buildings such as the Tate Laboratory of Physics. Some graduate students’ offices reside seven floors below ground in the civil engineering building three blocks away. The department is, as Bales said, scattered.

Overcrowded quarters also hamper other CLA departments on the East and West banks, said CLA Associate Dean Barbara Reid. Only CLA departments with specialized needs – such as theatre, music and psychology – have buildings to themselves.

The English department’s push for new quarters fits into plans to develop a “humanities knoll” and concentrate language and literature departments near Jones and Folwell halls, Reid said.

The lack of contact between English and its sister departments concerns Bales. The gap between Lind and other language and literature buildings lessens “opportunities for easy and casual conversation, out of which (academic) plans grow,” he said.

English already has a building picked out: Pillsbury Hall, three blocks closer to Folwell and Jones than Lind. But that building is already occupied by the department of geology and geophysics.

As a compromise to constructing a new building, the University plans to swap geology and English, which will concentrate more IT departments along Church Street, where Lind is located.

But that plan depends on receiving $30 million to renovate Pillsbury and strengthen Lind to accommodate heavy geological equipment. If the Legislature approves all capital funding requests between 2002-04, construction on Pillsbury will begin in 2004.

In case funding does not materialize, the English department will look to alumni for funds. Initial donations, Bales said, are critical, and so far the department has secured one donation of $100,000.

Bales acknowledged his department is pretty comfortable in its Lind Hall offices, especially compared with colleagues on the West Bank.

But he still wants to see English and other departments reunited. Before moving to Vincent Hall in the mid-1960s and later to Lind, he noted, all the language and literature departments resided in Folwell.

“(The move) really is a return to our colleagues,” Bales said.

Sam Kean welcomes comments at [email protected]