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4 Ohio State departments housed in Pomerene, Oxley might move

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Pomerene and Oxley halls might soon be renovated to make room for a new Ohio State data analytics program, and along the way, a few departments in the buildings might find themselves looking for new locations.

Pomerene Hall currently houses the Department of History of Art, Student Life’s Disability Services and the Mirror Lake Creamery & Grill. Oxley Hall contains the Department of Linguistics and the Office of International Affairs.

It’s uncertain where any of the departments would move at this time, vice provost for academic and strategic planning Michael Boehm, said.

The Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission’s 2015-16 state funding recommendations included $52.8 million for the renovations of Oxley and Pomerene, which would allow them to house a “new comprehensive data analytics program,” according to an OSU press release. The new program is set to be part of the university’s Discovery Themes initiative.

The Discovery Themes initiative, which was launched in October 2012, targets health and wellness, energy and environment, food production and security, areas identified by some OSU officials as university priority areas. The $400 million plan includes expanding research and hiring new faculty.

Boehm said the designing of the renovations is not set to begin until the money to remodel the buildings is given to OSU by the state of Ohio.

“Nobody’s moving anywhere until we’re done with design,” Boehm said.

For some departments, this won’t be the first move in recent years, as the Department of History of Art has moved three in the past four years, from Hayes Hall to Pomerene in 2010, then to Smith Lab for two quarters before transitioning back to Pomerene, according to a College of Arts and Sciences release. A History of Art representative declined to comment on the possibility of another move.

Some who work in the buildings said a change of location would be welcome.

“The linguistics department has needed a larger space for years, and the (College of Humanities, which existed prior to the College of Arts & Sciences) accepted a request to increase/improve space for the department in 2005,” Shari Speer, chairwoman of the Department of Linguistics, said in an email.

Brian Joseph, a professor of linguistics, said expansion is necessary for the department.

“We’ve been needing to get more space because the department has been growing and we have special space needs for laboratory facilities,” he said.

Boehm, who is part of the group of OSU faculty leading the Discovery Themes initiative, said Pomerene and Oxley halls are ideal locations for the data analytics program because of their position on Neil Avenue, where they’re close to both the academic core and the OSU Wexner Medical Center.

He also said it was about time the buildings received renovations.

Pomerene Hall was completed in 1922 as a place of leisure for women on campus and contains a swimming pool that is no longer used.

“It’s an old building, part of our history. I think it’s pretty cool through,” said Ben Gorski, a second-year in chemistry. Gorski had a class in Pomerene during Fall Semester and currently works in Oxley Hall in the Office of International Affairs.

But some said Oxley isn’t kept in the best shape — Joseph said the basement of Oxley is moldy, with damp areas and leaking pipes. Oxley was completed in 1908 as the first residence hall for women.

Speer said if the linguistics department is moved, it will be better for the department in the long run.

“Moving a department is like moving a family — it’s a temporary disruption, and something that has the potential to be of great benefit over the longer term,” Speer said.

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