A proposal this summer stated that the University of New Mexico Honors College would move their services to what is currently the University’s Art Annex, which would allow the Student Health and Counseling to expand their services.
Reactions from the Honors College and students who hold space in the Art Annex seem to indicate this plan seems to solve one problem while creating two more.
“SHAC has occupied the same facility for over 50 years without any addition of space,” SHAC Director James Wilterding said. “Everyone agrees that expanded space is needed. The nature and type of the upgrade has been actively discussed for more than a decade.”
The most recent planning discussions involve an expansion into SHAC’s lower level, which is currently occupied by the Honors College, Wilterding said.
“While this has the potential to be a very elegant solution for SHAC, we also understand that the impact on other departments and programs must be considered,” he said. “Our priority is having functional space in a location that supports our mission of promoting the well-being of the students of UNM. We will continue to be open to dialogue regarding the specifics during coming months.”
While SHAC’s expansion into the the Honors College area would give SHAC the space it needs, moving the Honors College into the Art Annex may not be a long term solution.
“In terms of the Honors College, it will give us slightly more space then we have now but certainly not the kind of space we need to fully serve what we need to serve now,” said Leslie Donovan, Chair and Professor of the Honors College.
The move would not give the Honors College any room for the future growth they aim to achieve, Donovan said.
“We have had a charge from the University administration that we are to benefit the entire UNM community and that one of those expectations is that we expand and grow and increase our program,” she said. “Moving up into the building known as the Art Annex will not allow us to grow in the future. In addition, it does not serve us according to what national standards are typically expected for top Honors programs in the country.”
Donovan said she was not informed about the move until this July.
“A lot of us are fairly concerned, because it seems a poor use of taxpayer funds in a state that’s fairly financially challenged to move the Honors College to one place that will not satisfy our needs long term, because then they’ll just have to spend money to move us again in a couple of years,” Donovan said. “To us that doesn’t seem like a good use of taxpayer money, especially because it also impacts a seriously nationally and internationally ranked art program. I can’t speak for art or the art students, but moving them out of the Art Annex when that’s not a long term sustainable space for us doesn’t seem a wise use of taxpayer money.”
Although the Honors College has not been asked to come up with an alternative in the past, when first approached during a discussion of whether Honors would become a college at UNM, there was a lot of discussion about either building a new addition, a new building or renovating something near the Honors residence hall area in Hokona, she said.
The Honors College would be very willing to sit down and talk to anyone from the Board of Regents and any other organization or office on campus about alternatives or options, Donovan said.
“I always think we need to be careful about our responses and our reactions — all of us: students, faculty, Board of Regents, administration — we all need to listen carefully to each other,” she said. “I think we have some very serious financial challenges in the state, but we have amazing people and amazing resources here, and if we take some time to really work together and try to come up with options that are well-suited for everyone, if we look at all angles of an issue, we’ll easily be able to come up with a solution.”
For those currently in the Art Annex, there is a lot of concern for the move — which would relocate studio art graduate students from the Annex into a building that would not accommodate them very well, said Justine Andrews, Associate Professor and Chair within the Art Department.
“This has been a process, and I am really proud of our art students and the Honors College students who stood up at the Regents (meeting) and made their voices heard,” Andrews said. “I’m grateful to Regent President Doughty for calling upon a pause to consider recommendations from the interim president and the interim provost.”
Concerns come from the issue of space — with the new plan, the department will lose features it uses internally and for recruitment, she said. Moving students into a space that’s too small, even with a build out, would not have the features the department uses, not only for itself, but for recruitment purposes as well.
Students from other programs visit the Annex to see the studio space and facility — it is a great draw for them to have their own studio space, Andrews said.
The art program relies on the attraction of the Annex, because they have little in the way of scholarships and fellowships, she said.
Other than diminishing the reputation and recruitment draw, the move would also diminish the space, leaving the department with a reduced number of studios, Andrews said.
“We only accept as many graduate students as we have graduate studios, because we guarantee that they have one studio themselves,” she said.
Programs specifically suited to the space within the Art Annex include printmaking and photography, she said.
“The big thing there is that we do like to keep our reputation, and we are a ranked program in the country,” Andrews said. “The entire MFA program is ranked at 48th now, and the photography program in particular is ranked 5th.”
The move has impacted the decision-making process of some of the students already, Andrews said. Many students who have come in this year as graduate students and some that have been there are hesitant about creating projects that wouldn’t be able to be moved.
“I think that any student that’s going into the Honors program or art graduate program should know that the leaders of these programs, I think, are all dedicated to the best experience for students,” Andrews said. “We want to create fantastic artists, we want to create fantastic undergraduate scholars in the Honors program and we want them to have the best facilities possible.”
Nichole Harwood is a news and culture reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @Nolidoli1.