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Friday, Sep 22, 2023 | Latest Print Edition

Economics department tries to relocate after five years in Haley Center

Boxes share the hallways with the economics department. (Kris Sims | Multimedia Editor)
Boxes share the hallways with the economics department. (Kris Sims | Multimedia Editor)

In August 2014, the economics department spent the fifth anniversary of its forced relocation to the Haley Center basement the same way it always did: by trying to get out.
In 2008, the economics department was moved from the College of Business to the College of Liberal Arts because of internal disputes said Michael Stern, department chair and associate economics professor.
The home of the College of Liberal Arts is the Haley Center.
Despite trying to work with administration to leave the basement and, at least, return to its original home in Lowder Hall, the department remains in the basement, along with storage closets, leaky bathrooms and collapsing ceiling tiles.
Many professors and faculty members have spent time in the basement while their offices or classrooms were renovated, but no one has spent as much time as the economics department, Stern said.
"We're the only known department to have moved here without a plan or a facilities emergency," Stern said. "The space we were in on the second floor of Lowder that we vacated was then left vacant. We were not moved out of there because anyone needed to move in or because there wasn't any problem with the facility."
According to Stern, the administration's inaction over the department's facilities isn't just a burden on students and faculty members.
Stern said leaving one of the top 10 credit-hour-generating departments in an unused basement poses a serious threat to the department's credibility.
"When you come down here you think, 'What are these guys doing down here?'" said Alexander Richter, assistant professor of economics. "Let's say we're interviewing for an open faculty position. What (this situation) says is nobody takes us seriously from an administrative level, and that's a fundamental problem. People would be willing to come here, but they're not going to go work in this environment."
Richter said students routinely get lost on the way to his office in the basement, though he still teaches the majority of his classes in Lowder.
Although the lack of available office space is a contributing factor to their lengthy stay, John Sophocleus, economics instructor, said the time for the University administration to make a decision about moving the department is long overdue.
"What better thing can you say than we've entrusted the administration for five years to deal with this?" Sophocleus said. "We have been patient. It's time for them to do something. If five years of waiting isn't enough, pray tell, how many more?"
Stern said former Provost Mary Ellen Mazey made the decision to transfer colleges, and eventually move to the Haley Center basement in 2009.
"They were informed at essentially the same time that we were," Stern said. "(Mazey) wrote up this memo, called us in, looked at her watch and said, 'As of 9:05 a.m., you are now in the College of Liberal Arts.'"
Mazey shut down the department's academic programs over conflicts with their curriculum when the undergraduate economic students didn't meet the foreign language requirements as a result of transferring to the College of Liberal Arts, Stern said.
"In the fall of 2009, students could not sign up for any form of curriculum at the University," Stern said. "[Macroeconomics professor] Liliana Stern, who directed our undergraduate studies at the time, had to go with the undergraduate students to the president to get our programs opened. When he found out that Mazey had shut them, he ordered them reopened."
Mazey's assistant, Laurel Zawodny, said Mazey, current Bowling Green State University president, was unable to comment.
"(Mazey) has business to take care of and does not have the time to revisit decisions made while at Auburn," Zawodny said.
Mazey left Auburn University in 2011 to become the president of BGSU. The decision over the economics department's future was left unresolved, said economics professor Randy Beard.
"All of this just shows that when we were moved here to this college, and then also physically moved here into this building, it was very poorly planned," Beard said. "They didn't prepare for (the move) properly. It was an off-the-cuff kind of decision that nobody paid any attention to."
Beard said nobody owns this decision, now that Mazey is gone, though that hasn't stopped the department from appealing to the University administration.
"In fairness to Mazey, she indicated to me that this was temporary," Stern said. "It was just a cooling-off period. She did tell the business school not to touch our space on the second floor, and so she may have been rolling around some plans in her head, she just didn't finalize them yet."
Joseph Aistrup, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said in an email to Beard that he is working on the issue now and does not have information that he can share with the department "either in private or public."
Aistrup said he had no further comment.
Timothy Boosinger, current provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said he wasn't aware the economics department was trying to move out of their current office space until a few months ago.
Boosinger said he's put a process in place with the facilities division, the economics department and the College of Liberal Arts to discuss the current situation and evaluate the best decision.
Beard said the large amount of construction over the last five years evidence their complaints are not being heard.
"(The University) has all these beautiful jogging tracks, coffee shops, indoor practice facilities," Beard said. "This (location) is like a dungeon."

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