Western Courier

Department shift causes stir

Nicholas Ebelhack

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At the end of the spring 2015 semester, there will be several changes in Western Illinois University’s department locations. 

 In addition to changes in the Western’s curriculum, students will soon find their classes in different places on campus.

 Over the summer, the women’s studies department will move from the fifth floor of Currens Hall to the second floor of Simpkins Hall. The journalism program will be moving out of Simpkins to Sallee Hall, in order to make room for the women’s studies department.

 According to Associate Professor of Journalism Teresa Simmons, the move is unexpected and unwanted for the department.

 “No one in journalism wishes to move from this building,” Simmons said. “All of the journalism faculty have decided that they want to stay here. While we were discussing last semester the transition over to broadcasting, we were told that we would be able to stay here. We received a letter last week giving us our new offices in Sallee, and this was the first that we had heard of it.”

 Professor Simmons also said the move is too short notice. The journalism department is currently set to move by May 18.

 “As far as journalism’s response, we have asked for a meeting with the (Western Illinois Chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois),” Simmons said. “Different people are handling this differently, but we all are asking for equal opportunity, and we agree across the board that on May 18 we are in the middle of grading exams. We don’t even have two weeks. At the end of the semester, with projects and grading, we are not finished by then — and we are now supposed to go get boxes, pack up and move.”

 Another point of conflict is the location and aesthetics of the building. Both departments agree that Simpkins Hall is located in a beautiful area of campus, and while women’s studies is excited to move to Simpkins, journalism is not looking forward to moving to Sallee.

 Chair of the women’s studies department Professor Aimee Shouse said that the move will better suit the women’s studies program.

 “I think that it makes more sense for women’s studies to be with English because we have faculty in women’s studies that work with faculty in English, as well as cross listed courses between the two departments,” Shouse said. “The women’s studies department will fit better with English rather than with chemistry and physics.”

Shouse said when the women’s studies program was created, it was initially placed in Currens because it had the space.

“It was just a practical decision at the time, because we were a new department,” Shouse said. “The program has only been around for 10 years, although women’s studies has been around much longer. When you need a new department and you need more space, you pretty much just put them where there is space. These offices were available and women’s studies was put here.”

Assistant Professor of women’s studies Holly Stovall said the move will be the return of women’s studies to Simpkins Hall.

“When I was a student at WIU 25 years ago, the first women’s studies class I took was Karen Mann’s women and literature class, and it was in Simpkins,” Stovall said. “I have heard that Women and Literature was the first, or one of the first, women’s studies class taught at WIU. In this sense, it’s entirely appropriate for us to ‘return,’ so to speak, to Simpkins.”

The women’s studies department as a whole is very positive about moving to Simpkins. according to Shouse.

Professor Shouse said that the English department has been very open to the arrival of women’s studies.

“We have had only positive reactions from the faculty in English,” Shouse said. “We posted about it on our Facebook page and English faculty liked it, and we have gotten welcome letters from the department. I have been in meetings with people and everybody seems excited that we are moving into Simpkins. So,  I would say the overall response was neutral to positive. We haven’t had negative reactions.”

Professor Shouse said she is pleased with the decision to move to Simpkins even if the department loses a bit of storage space.

“I do like the building,” Shouse said. “Aesthetically, it is an old building on a beautiful side of campus, and I have never had the chance to work on that side of campus. We are going to lose a little storage space, but we will work that out.”

Sallee, in comparison to Simpkins, lacks windows that allow natural light into the building. Professor Simmons said that the move would affect her personally, and that she is asking for the university to take her situation into consideration before the move.

“I have seasonal affective disorder, and I have to have light,” Simmons said. “I am asking for physical accommodations because I viscerally can’t do it. Some people like to work in different places, but I work better and get things graded faster in my own office. From my perspective, and this is me speaking personally, I need natural light, and I need to have a window.”

Between the journalism and women’s studies department, there is a conflict of interest that will be addressed before further action takes place. Simmons concluded and said the journalism department has an emotional connection to the building and the people that work in it.

“I think that we are working with human beings,” Simmons said. “Human beings that have been in this building and in our offices for two decades. People that have put roots down and like the English colleagues even if we are not in the same department. We have just been pulled apart, and it isn’t so easy that you turn yourself on and turn yourself off.”

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Department shift causes stir