Faculty of the Ethnic Studies Program at the University of Utah say a move to a tucked-away underground floor threatens the health of their nascent major.
The department’s current offices are in Carlson Hall, which is slated to be demolished this summer to make room for a new law school building.
While planners say the move is temporary due to space constraints at the U., some in the department feels it’s symbolic of the “debased, marginalized spaces,” often designated to minorities in America, according to an unsigned letter circulated at a Thursday meeting.
The program’s new home is in the Business Classroom Building at 1635 E. Central Campus Drive.
“For me personally, I feel like we’ve been left out of this completely,” said ethnic studies associate professor Elise Boxer. “We’re a new major, and we’re going to need to expand. When are our needs going to be a priority?”
University President David Pershing said the school is committed to ethnic studies, and promised the department will have a new, larger home on a higher floor in the building within the year.
“We just have to deal with the space available,” he said. “This is a reasonable temporary space.”
It’s important for a program — especially a new major — to have a location where professors can interact with each other as well as students, to build a sense of community, said gender studies director Susie Porter, whose faculty are due to move next to ethnic studies.
“We can’t build community if we don’t have space in the first place,” she said. ”I think there’s a lot of growth going on [at the U.]... you have to really think about what your priorities are.”