Language dept. will move to Fisher
The Modern Languages and Literatures department is scheduled to move from one corner of campus to the other this summer, leaving empty its offices in the Des Places Language Center and relocating to Fisher Hall.The department, which already uses many classrooms in Fisher Hall, found out they would be leaving Des Places in November 2008, according to University spokeswoman Bridget Fare. Talks of relocating, however, surfaced in 2004 or earlier, said Edith Krause, the department chair.
"It's been in the air for a while," Krause said. "First, we were told we'd be moving to the third floor [of Fisher Hall]. More recently, we were told we'd be going to the second floor."
The Modern Language professors and instructors will occupy the offices on the second floor that housed the Public Affairs and Human Resources departments until last semester, when they moved to the Koren Building, one of the University's newly purchased properties on Fifth Avenue. The University has also planned to move the Physics department to third floor of Fisher sometime in the next few years.
"The faculty in general does not consider this an optimal move," Krause said. "The general concensus is that Modern Languages belongs in College Hall."
Until 1998, the department was located on the third floor of College Hall with the English department, according to Carla Lucente, who was the chair of the department at the time. Lucente, now the co-director of the Center for International Relations, said that, at the time, she was unhappy about moving to Des Places.
Krause is also hesitant about this move, comparing the second floor of Fisher Hall to a "dungeon."
"I'm certainly not happy about a few of the peculiarities of the location," Krause said. "[W]hat I dislike in particular is the fact that there will be no windows."
She also said she believes the new location is less accessible to students with physical disabilities. One of the entrances, she said, has a "pronounced slant," and the other has two steps.
"I do not like that, and I have expressed that," Krause said. "But in order to remedy that, it would entail major surgery to the area, and we would lose space which, of course, we need desperately."
Fare, however, said the University found the new location to be "more suitable" because the building is in better physical condition than Des Places.
Facilities Management conducted a study of Des Places, along with the residence life buildings, nearly two years ago. They concluded from the results, which came in last summer, that it would be more effective to knock down and rebuild Des Places than to renovate it, according to George Fecik, the director of Facilities Management.
"It would cost too much to try to save the structure," Fecik said. "The building has just seen its useful life. It needs a lot of work, and it's just not economically feasible to save it."
Facilities Management presented a plan to the administration in November 2009 that recommended Des Places be demolished and a student dormitory building be constructed in its place, Fecik said. The plan is currently being reviewed by the University administration, and will soon be presented to the Board of Directors.
He said the building's heating and cooling systems, wiring, plumbing and general infrastructure were outdated, but emphasized that the building was still safe.
"There are no plans for anything other than a dorm building at this point," Fecik said of Facilities Management's recommendations.
"That's not to say that if [the plan for a dormitory building] doesn't work out we couldn't build something else there," he added.
Fare, however, said that the Modern Languages department's move from Des Places was decided separately from any plans to knock down or renovate the building. She and Fecik both emphasized that no decisions have been made about the future of the building, and said they did not know when those decisions would be made.
Given the University's decision Jan. 8 to put WDUQ's license up for sale, it is possible that the radio station may also relocate from their current offices on the fourth and fifth floors of Des Places.
If a dormitory did replace the building, the Modern Languages department would lose many of their current classrooms.
"We don't know exactly what will be happening to Des Places," Krause said. "I heard that it would be a dorm. I also had heard that it would be torn down, then had heard again that it would be refurbished. I do not have any definite information."
Disclosure: The offices of The Duquesne Duke are also in Des Places.
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