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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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No way home: All current departments in Academic Building to be relocated by summer

Academic+Building
Photo by Photo by Ishika Samant
Academic Building

As the deadline for the merger that is the College of Arts and Sciences draws closer, the interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts announced to faculty, via email, the departure of nearly all departments currently within the Academic Building, with no stated site for relocation.
In the email obtained by The Battalion, interim Dean Steven Oberhelman outlined three major changes: the new School of Architecture will move into the Coke Building, the new School of Visual and Performing Arts will move into Langford-A and the Academic Building will be vacated over the summer.
“Affected will be the departments of Hispanic Studies, International Studies and Sociology, as well as the units housed in the building (Race and Ethnic Studies Institute, Social Sciences Consortium, Census Data Center),” the email reads. “We will, it appears, also lose the classrooms in the building.”
In total, all of the departments and institutes housed within the Academic Building will be moving, with the goal to prepare the building to be the hub for the new College of Arts and Sciences. Although, with the most current information, sociology and Hispanic studies will remain within the college, while international studies will have some programs remain within the college while others relocate to the Bush School of Government and Public Service.
Sociology Ph.D. student Jaila Joseph said this announcement is concerning, both in their role as a student and instructor within the department, and has made them feel as though their academic pursuits are being ranked as less important.
“Honestly, it’s really frustrating,” Joseph said. “The College of Liberal Arts already gets the short end of the stick on everything. The university makes it very clear that we’re not as important as the College of Engineering or other [colleges]. It’s very, very blatant that they don’t care.”
In addition to their personal frustrations, Joseph said, logistically, this move will be very difficult given the department’s long history within the building as well as the lack of information on new facilities.
“As it stands right now, even in the Academic Building where our department is already housed, we don’t even have enough space for graduate students,” Joseph said. “Currently, there is no definitive place where our classes always are, we just get put in random spaces … It’s still very much up in the air. People have made jokes that we’re just going to get moved to a basement somewhere.”
For distinguished international studies professor Richard Golsan, this move is a point of concern. Given the lack of clarity on how the International Studies Department will be divided up into the Bush School, the move will be further complicated.
“As far as the reorganization of the department, that involves moving some faculty and courses to the Bush School, and the rest is not entirely clear yet — we’ve known about that since the end of last semester,” Golsan said. “But Hispanic studies and sociology, both of those departments have been in there as long as I have been here. I arrived in 1984.”
Given nearly 40 years as an educator at Texas A&M, Golsan himself has been a part of four different iterations of the International Studies Department. He said despite having been moved around various times, this announcement still came as a shock.
“The announcement of the move from the Academic Building, there was no lead up to that; it seemed to catch everybody by surprise,” Golsan said. “We have not been told where we’re going to move, or if we’re going to be able to stay in certain departments. It’s a little bit disconcerting to everyone. As far as we know, we’re also losing the classroom space in the Academic Building, which affects a lot of departments, not just the ones in the building.”
What concerns Golsan the most, he said, is the rapid pace of this change, as President M. Katherine Banks hopes to have the College of Arts and Sciences combined and operational by Sept. 1.
“[This move is] part of a restructuring of the entire university, but it’s only a piece of that puzzle,” Golsan said. “As far as the restructuring of the university, there’s things that I like about it, [and] there’s things that I’m wary of. The speed at which this is being done is disconcerting for a lot of people. That is the president’s decision to do it quickly, so that’s what we’re dealing with.”
Though the email is clear in outlining the changes, there is still no concrete information regarding where the relocating departments will go, nor what will occupy the soon-to-be free space. International Studies department head Stefanie Harris said in an email to The Battalion that nothing else has been communicated to her or her faculty and staff beyond Oberhelman’s email.
“The working group on the Bush School will be working out the details concerning the move of the international studies program to the Bush School. Dean Mark Welsh is the working group lead,” Harris said in the email. “At this point I do not have any information to share beyond what was described in President Banks’ ‘Path Forward’ document.”
On top of the significant effect on offices and classrooms, Joseph said another concern is rehousing the three research spaces, especially given how the Race and Ethnic Studies Institute was specifically mentioned within the report as receiving an expansion.
“It is very, very interesting to see the university backtracking on promises for racial progress and equity, especially because the Department of Sociology within the College of Liberal Arts does have some of the highest numbers for diversity, equity and inclusion,” Joseph said. “For researchers to be losing that space, it’s like, you only did [diversity efforts] on paper, but you very clearly do not care. You’re moving the institute and you’re also moving the people who do the actual work of diversity.”
Joseph said they also believe this uprooting may cause students in the liberal arts field to reconsider their attendance at A&M.
“What is the incentive to stay here? If you’re not a STEM major then there’s just none, there’s no question,” Joseph said.
Golsan said he hopes his department and the students within international studies will be able to find a new space, after losing one that has served them well for many years.
“Most of our international studies courses, especially the upper level ones, are in Academic Building,” Golsan said. “That’s the home, that’s where they know to go. I see a lot of them in the hallways when they’re not in classes. Hopefully there will be another location where they can feel at home again.”
Editor’s Note: University administrators did not respond for comment at the time of publication.

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