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Miami considers tearing down Williams Hall

<p>Provost Jason Osborne presented a university restructuring plan at the faculty assembly on Feb. 12. </p>

Provost Jason Osborne presented a university restructuring plan at the faculty assembly on Feb. 12.

Miami University is considering tearing down Williams Hall in a plan to rearrange the campus by major. 

The idea, presented at the Feb. 12 faculty assembly, involves separating the campus into “corridors,” which would place similar disciplines together. The new clinical health sciences building will include health-related majors like nursing and speech pathology and audiology. The university is also planning a digital innovation building to house data analytics, math and related programs. 

“I believe creating new colleges doesn’t really change anything, but putting people physically together in proximity to each other who are likely to work together, that’s more impactful,” said Jason Osborne, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Bachelor Hall — which currently holds English, math and speech pathology and audiology — would become a “transdisciplinary humanities hub,” Osborne said. With Williams Hall’s destruction, the Department of Media, Journalism and Film (MJF) would move to Bachelor. Osborne said Bachelor might also house the honors program, the Western Program, philosophy and languages.  

Osborne pointed out that there hasn’t been any collaboration between the majors currently housed in Bachelor, but departments such as English and MJF might be able to work together in the future. 

It would be too expensive to renovate Williams, Osborne said, estimating it to cost around $40-50 million. The whole Bachelor construction project will cost around the same amount, said Robert Bell, interim director of planning, architecture and engineering. 

Williams was constructed primarily to hold the former radio station, WMUB. The building only has a few classrooms, and many faculty offices are located in old recording rooms. 

“The structure of the building and the original construction quality of the building does not lend itself to an efficient and economical renovation,” Bell wrote in an email to The Miami Student. “As we evaluate all of our buildings and resources, Williams Hall would likely cost more to renovate and result in a completed project that was less satisfying and not up to the standard of other buildings across campus.”

But to some who spend a lot of their time in Williams, the idea of losing the building is disheartening. 

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” said senior journalism and creative writing major Peyton Gigante in response to the news that Williams might be torn down. “There are very hardworking students that appreciate this building for the small tight-knit community that it allows, and I think to deprive the MJF students of that would be doing a real disservice to the program.”

Bruce Drushel, chair of MJF, said he was not consulted in the decision to move the department, as it was part of the larger restructuring plan. 

“Most of us here have a sentimental attachment to Williams Hall,” Drushel said. “I think it’s incumbent upon me and incumbent upon the other faculty and the other stakeholders in our program to keep an open mind … I think we need to look for whatever advantages there might be in the new space.” 

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The project isn’t finalized yet, and it’s unclear when or if Williams will be demolished, as the university is first focusing on the two new buildings before the Bachelor renovations. 

These changes were based on recommendations in the strategic plan. A leadership team made up of University President Greg Crawford’s executive cabinet came up with the idea of arranging the campus by major. With each new building, a program planning group is created, composed of department chairs of the programs included in that building. Associate Provost Jeffrey Wanko said students will eventually be involved in the decision-making process as well.  

Juan Carlos Albarran, a senior lecturer for global and intercultural studies, expressed concerns about the plan to arrange campus by discipline, as some majors don’t fit within just one category. 

“What do you do with a department that works in more than one area, where some programs are in the humanities and some are in social sciences?” he asked. “I, personally, would like a little more mingling between disciplines.”

The plan requires approval by the Board of Trustees (BoT). At its Feb. 20 and 21 meetings, the BoT will vote whether to authorize construction on the clinical health sciences building. The goal is to finish the clinical health sciences building, digital innovation building and Bachelor Hall renovations by 2025.