The following message was sent to all SUNY New Paltz students, faculty and staff on Thursday, Jan. 27.
The message was co-authored by Weldon McWilliams IV, Chair and Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Black Studies; Laura Barrett, Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences; Barbara Lyman, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; and Donald P. Christian, President
We are pleased to announce that we have developed a plan for the Black Studies Department to move out of the Faculty Office Building and into Old Main. This historic campus building, which housed the entire college when constructed in the early 20th century, re-opened after a full renovation in 2012 and boasts a spacious, modern, and welcoming feel. As part of our planning process, we produced a short “video tour” of space options in Old Main to share with Black Studies faculty during the semester break; the faculty’s input was considered in reaching a final decision.
The Department’s new home will be on the ground floor of Old Main (all on a single floor). It will include considerably more space than the Department has occupied, providing room for what we hope will be growth and increased opportunity for collaboration with academic units across the College, including the School of Education. Key features include:
A main department office suite with a reception area, the Department Chair office, and an additional office
A total of at least five other faculty offices (individual or shared)
Student gathering space
Space to create a conference room and library
Workspace as part of the department office
Access to a shared lounge area
Black Studies faculty expressed interest in teaching some courses in Old Main if relocated there. Indeed, it will be possible to schedule many daytime Black Studies courses there without displacing Education or other courses. Like other departments, some Black Studies courses will be taught in classrooms across campus as we strive to optimize the use of our constrained classroom capacity. Adjacency to Studley Theatre, where our First World Graduation ceremony is held, for events during Black History Month or at other times throughout the year is a further appeal of this space.
We are all pleased that we have found a more prominent home for one of the longest-established Black Studies Departments in the country. The relocation to this new space will increase the visibility of the Department and establish a better base for sharing the expertise, understanding, and cultural experience that its faculty and students bring to our campus community.
As President Christian shared in a Faculty Senate meeting this fall where the topic of new space for Black Studies was broached, the campus has no unoccupied space and certainly none as central to the campus “core” as Old Main. As a result, honoring the shared goal of finding new space for Black Studies would mean relocating other units to different space. We are grateful to those employees and units for their grace and generosity in being relocated out of Old Main to support this important goal.
Our target is to complete this project early this summer so that the department can be well settled into its new space before the fall 2022 semester. That timing will avoid disrupting Black Studies academic programs during the spring semester. Key steps will include consulting with employees/units being relocated to FOB about space configuration and modest improvements there; completing that work and moving these units out of Old Main during spring; addressing signage and technology changes; and completing the minor reconfigurations needed in Old Main so that Black Studies faculty and staff can relocate during June. All of this work will be coordinated with other Facilities activities during spring and summer.
We regret that it has taken so long to address this longstanding issue of a proper home for the Black Studies Department. President Christian has been committed to this goal and is gratified to be completing it during his final semester here. He often cites the adage, fitting here, that “The best time to have planted a tree was 30 years ago. The next best time is today.”