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CTY popculture The pop culture department has occupied the 5,125-square-foot brick house ordered from a Montgomery Ward catalog in 1932.
The pop culture department has occupied the 5,125-square-foot brick house ordered from a Montgomery Ward catalog in 1932.
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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

BGSU to raze '30s-era home before autumn

Faculty members protest, say their input was not solicited


BOWLING GREEN -- The news that Bowling Green State University plans to raze a historic building that currently holds the university's pop culture department before classes begin Aug. 20 has sparked tensions between faculty and administration.

Though BGSU officials say plans to replace the building with a student health center had long been in the works, faculty members say they first learned over the weekend that their offices were slated for demolition and say they were given inadequate opportunity to offer input in the decision.

"It's really very overwhelming. It really has us in a tizzy, and we're feeling pretty frantic. We didn't have the time or space to comprehend what they were doing to this building," said Montana Miller, an assistant professor in the pop culture department.

The 5,125-square-foot brick house was ordered from a Montgomery Ward catalog in 1932, and is believed to be one of the last Wardway kit homes constructed. Montgomery Ward sold kit homes "by mail" in the 1920s and early '30s.

The building was purchased by the university in 1937 and housed four of BGSU's 11 presidents before the pop culture department moved there in the 1970s.

It is only fitting, defenders of the structure say, that the nation's only pop culture studies department remain in a piece of historic Americana.

While faculty members heard of long-term plans to move the pop culture department into Shatzel Hall along with the three other departments that make up the new school of cultural and critical studies, they say information was more rumor than fact. Faculty learned at a meeting Thursday with Susana Pena, the director of the school of cultural and critical studies, that the move would be immediate.

In an email sent to the department Friday -- a copy of which was obtained by The Blade -- Ms. Pena called the timeline "horrendous," but asked faculty to "start putting your things in boxes."

For professors, news that the move was a precursor for the building's demolition came from a Sentinel-Tribune article on Saturday.

According to administration officials, plans to demolish the pop culture department's building, which is at East Wooster and South College streets, dated to 2009, when BGSU hired independent consultants to assess the structural condition of all university buildings. The survey rated the pop culture building as poor and recommended that it be razed.

The decision to move the department and demolish the building now, said university Provost Rodney Rogers, is an attempt to clear the lot before the start of the semester.

He noted that while many professors are off campus, moving during the summer minimizes the disruption to students and is standard procedure for the university.

Professors say the administration did not provide adequate notice of the move or give faculty a forum to defend the historical value of the building.

Pop culture faculty members have written letters to BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey calling for the building's preservation. Karen Craigo, an instructor in the English department, began an online petition at SignOn.org to stop the demolition.

As of late Monday, the petition had drawn signatures from as far away as Germany and the United Kingdom and had 766 signatures toward its 1,000-signature goal.

But despite his announcement Monday that the university would hold a meeting to hear faculty concerns, Provost Rogers said protests are unlikely to change the administration's plans.

A university plan following the 2009 assessment called for restorations focusing on three iconic structures on the BGSU campus: University Hall, Hanna Hall, and Moseley Hall, all of which were also rated poor on the survey.

"That sends the indication that we want to preserve our history. They're also not in good shape, but because they're original buildings, where the university was founded, we want to preserve those," Mr. Rogers said. "We've had the pop culture building for a long time, but it's certainly not where we were founded."

Contact Jessica Shor at: jshor@theblade.com or 419-724-6516.

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