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Centering the humanities [1]

Topics/tags: Grinnell, short

The other day, I was driving by the new HSSC and saw a sign in front that said, Humanities and Social Studies Center [2]. I was puzzled, since I’ve always referred to it as The Humanities and Social Studies Complex [3]. As I thought about it, I realized that the Center version is what I’ve been seeing in recent announcements from the College, such as the Special Campus Memo about our new Dean, Anne F. Harris [4,5].

On the one hand, that naming makes sense. After all, the building in which I work is the Noyce Science Center [6]. On the other, we often use Center at Grinnell to mean an entity devoted to some area. We have a Center for Prairie Studies, a Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, a Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership, and, um, a Center for the Humanities.

I’m sure that most Grinnellians will be able to tell the two apart. But what about outsiders? Where can I find the Humanities Center? The Center for the Humanities or the Humanities and Social Studies Center? Um, I’m not sure. I’m a guest speaker for the symposium. Oh, that’s the Center for the Humanities. You can find it on the third floor of the Humanities and Social Science Center [7].

Even without that confusion, it strikes me that complex is a better term. The OED [8,9] tells me that a complex is A group or system of different things that are linked in a close or complicated way or A group of similar buildings or facilities on the same site. That seems to describe the HSSC. I realize that it’s now one big edifice. But it consists of at least two inner buildings with an outer wrapper.

But maybe it’s not the center. Now I’m confused. I went to look something up and discovered that in an article in the Grinnell Magazine, it’s called the Complex. In the project overview page, it’s the Center. But there’s also an update that calls it the HSSC complex [10].

Is consistent naming that complex?

Postscript: Does anyone know have an authoritative answer about the name of the HSSC?

[1] And the social studies. But not the fine-arts humanities.

[2] That sign seems to have disappeared.

[3] Once in a while, I refer to it as The Humanities and Social Science Complex.

[4] In particular, that memo includes the statement, Anne will be joining the College at a time when our academics are remarkably strong, with unparalleled faculty, a distinctive individually advised curriculum, and robust academic facilities, to include the Humanities and Social Studies Center slated to open in 2020. [Emphasis mine.]

[5] It looks like Dean Harris will be a great addition to the College. I wish her luck at mastering Grinnell.

[6] Officially, the Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center.

[7] That’s a placeholder; I have no idea where in the HSSC the Center for Humanities will be housed.

[8] The Oxford English Dictionary.

[9] Or maybe that’s the EOLD - English Oxford Living Dictionary.

[10] That page also notes This will be the new home of the Anthropology department when finished. I had thought that the building would include other departments, too.

Version 1.0 of 2019-01-06.