To Move or Not to Move


Annex. (n.)

1540s, “an adjunct, accessory,” from French annexe “that which is joined” (13c.), from annexer “to join” (see annex (v.)). Meaning “supplementary building” is from 1861.

Annex. (v.)

Late 14c., “to connect with,” from Old French annexer “to join, attach” (13c.), from Medieval Latin annexare, frequentative of Latin annecetere “to bind to,” from ad “to” (see ad-) + nectere “to tie, bind” (from PIE root *ned- “to bind, tie”). Usually meaning “to join in a subordinate capacity,” but that notion is not in the etymology. Of nations or territories, c. 1400. Related: Annexed; annexing.

—Online Etymology Dictionary

The Honors College has been on the list for a new space for many years. And this year, University of New Mexico Regent Marron Lee took steps to move Honors to the historic Art Annex. The move, from the outsider perspective, looks quite favorable. Honors would move to a beautiful building, and the MFA Art students would relocate to a building by the same architect across the street. In actuality, the move has many unexpected and unpleasant consequences for the students of the Honors College and the MFA Art students.

The first of those consequences comes from the Honors perspective. The number of UNM Honors Students fluctuates between one thousand five hundred and two thousand. That number of students comes through the basement of the Honors College once every week, and it is all our faculty can do to serve our current student body. Honors is trying to expand, and our current physical space and faculty size would not allow for that. The problem with a move to the Art Annex, then (from a merely practical standpoint), is its classification as a historic building. That classification means that, while the building can be renovated (at significant cost), there can be no structural modifications to the building. That would allow for a possible two extra offices, no extra classrooms, and a drastic reduction of community space alongside the loss of our outdoor space. Thus, a move to the Annex would, in fact, restrict Honors’ growth rather than promote it.

The other problem with a move to the Art Annex comes from the perspective of the students who are already there: the MFA Art students. Those students come from far and wide, turning down full-ride scholarships at other institutions to come to UNM. One of the major reasons for their enthusiasm in UNM is the Art Annex. The space is an artist’s dream: natural light, specially designed laboratory space, and in-house specialty equipment for the more technical aspects of the artists’ works. In short, the Art Annex facility is a significant part of the reason that our MFA photography program is one of the top in the nation, and is the fourth highest ranked program on campus. Also, the building that they would be relocated to if we did take over the Annex—the Biology Annex—is another historic building by the same architect. It has half the spatial capacity of the Art Annex, and, more terrifyingly, it is a temporary building from the 1950’s. It was designed to be torn down, however, because of its historic status, it still stands. The Biology Annex’s foundations are cracking, and if another renovation were to be performed on the space, the building might become structurally unsound.

The truth is now clear. Moving Honors to the Art Annex would prove disastrous for both the populations of the Honors College and the Art Annex. But the move is still on the table. Regent Lee, who originated the idea of the move as an option on a list of possibilities years ago, proceeded over the break to authorize a budget for the move—without consulting any of the leaders of the college. She did so in an attempt to find us a better space, and to give space back to SHAC, who needs a larger growth capacity as well. However, the projected results of the move have been exactly the opposite of those good intentions. To compound this already difficult situation, the projected plan for the growth of Honors at UNM stated that we should be located in the housing sector as of now. And housing has stated, many times, that they would be happy to have us! There is already an Honors LLC in Hokona, but it lives a very separate life from Honors as of now. Housing would like to see a lessening in that divide, and so would Honors.

The surprising good news, however, is that the conflict over the proposed move has brought the MFA Art students and Honors closer together, opening new channels that had as of yet lain dormant. A good lesson to learn from the negotiation with the regents and talks with various concerned groups is that the community of UNM is not as insular as it always seems. New connections can always be forged, and fast friends are just around the corner.


The discussion on the move is still ongoing, and more updates are to come.


 

by Samuel Shoemaker-Trejo

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