Proposal for demolition of Wirtz House protested

By Stephanie Bradley

Marilyn Skinner, chairman of the NIU Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, protested the possible demolition of the Wirtz House at the Dec. 14 University Council meeting.

In the Master Plan, a schedule for campus development, Wirtz House will be demolished in the process of remodeling the Martin Luther King Memorial Commons. The house is located between the Holmes Student Center and Founders Memorial Library.

Skinner said the reason for keeping Wirtz House is “an abstract rather than rational” one. She said she realizes the NIU Women’s Studies program located in Wirtz House has been offered an alternative site, but she said the house is important because it is “a center of warmth and feeling.”

Eddie Williams, vice president for finance and planning, said the committee organized to create a commons design reflective of King has not yet made a recommendation concerning the fate of Wirtz House. He said the committee has discussed “in detail” the extent to which Wirtz House fits the future design of the commons. Moving Wirtz House to another location is among the options, he said.

Skinner supported saving Wirtz House because the Women’s Studies program has worked closely with black women and the Black Studies program. “It concerns me that … the improvement of the Martin Luther King Commons is undertaken at the expense of a program that has tried to improve things for blacks,” she said.

NIU Math Professor Linda Sons said Wirtz House “is a symbol … of the rights of blacks, women and free speech.”

Affirmative Action Director Marilyn Monteiro said she agreed with some of Skinner’s and Sons’ statements, but hopes the house is not destroyed because “a number of older campuses have this type of (older) architecture mingled with newer architecture.” She said the issue “merits further discussion.”

James Norris, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the Women’s Studies program has been offered space in the Reavis Hall offices previously occupied by the journalism department. He said the location will offer greater exposure to the Women’s Studies program, and the offices would need only minor repairs.

Williams said no recommendations have been made, and changes will not be made before this summer. He also said he believed the matter is “not appropriate for University Council discussion.”

In other business, Leonard Strickman, dean of the College of Law, submitted the first reading of changes to the NIU Constitution and Bylaws section on college reinstatement committees. The major change was in the College of Law, where students no longer will participate as part of the committee. The change does not apply to graduate programs or any other college.