Potential removal of office signs prompts surprise, protest

By: Meredith Whelchel – Managing Editor

University of Dayton faculty working in the Jesse Phillips Humanities Center and St. Joseph’s Hall received an unexpected email Thursday afternoon from their department chairs requiring them to remove signs from their office doors by Monday, Oct. 28.

The order, sent to all chairs and program directors in Humanities and St. Joe’s, said any “homemade” signs in the buildings will be removed from doors and hallway walls Monday, Oct. 28, according to an email from the department director of budget and operations, Maura Donahue. The order also stated items not taken down would be thrown away by campus maintenance.

Cilla Shindell, director of media relations, said preventing damage to the buildings’ doors was the university’s main priority when issuing this order.

Paul Benson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, echoed Shindell’s statements in an email sent Sunday to faculty stating, “The current issue solely involves finding alternatives to taping and tacking materials in ways that, overtime, can damage doors and walls.”

Facilities Management refinished office doors in Humanities in 2009 at a cost of $44,000, Benson said in an email to Flyer News.

Following apparent misunderstandings, a delay has been placed on the order and will allow faculty members to keep their signs up until an alternative solution has found, Benson said.

Purchasing alternative means of posting personal items, like a bulletin board next to a professor’s door, would help prevent damage, Benson said.

Judith Huacuja, a UD visual arts professor and chair in the College of Arts and Sciences, said their department received a similar order last year effective May 15 after the faculty’s contracts had ended.

“We received the order from facilities right after one of our finest graphic design faculty had already created door signs with our names,” she said. “This graphic designer was obviously an expert, coordinating the signs with the existing décor. Those signs were taken down by facilities and replaced with the same information in a more standard looking sign.”

As personal expression, Huacuja said she felt the need to remove the signs and other materials attached to their doors was an intrusion. She said she provided a statement expressing the department’s protest to the dean.

“Basically everything is now back up on our doors,” she said. “But we had to purchase about 40 plastic holders for any signs pertaining to safety or cleaning procedures inside the classrooms and pay facilities to install them.”

At a department meeting Friday, UD philosophy professor John Inglis said the faculty was not part of the discussion to remove signs and did not understand the university’s motivation to do so.

“I’m sure there are people are both sides of this issue, just like we put smokers in boxes,” Inglis said. “The main point is that there are things that we aren’t consulted on what’s going to happen.”

Without the presence of personal items outside their offices, philosophy professor Myrna Gabbe said reaching students outside of those in her general education classes would be difficult.

“[With this order] there are no opportunities to make clear to students what we’re intellectually engaged in extending beyond research we study. It’s very limiting,” she said.

“Whatever the reason for the order, the result is a bland, uniform, pseudo-corporate anti-academic environment that is repellent to a lot of us,” said Rebecca Whisnant, a UD philosophy professor.

Another professor said he felt the change could be attributed to creating an environment conducive to diverse students.

“People are talking about challenging racism or sexism by rearranging classrooms, so discourse is in the air. This is a public statement, maybe they’re trying to make the buildings a certain way,” said UD philosophy professor Ernesto Rosen Velasquez.

Gabbe joked that soon the faculty wouldn’t be able to have coffee in their offices because of the floors.

Inglis said it’s unclear if the order will also affect their classrooms.