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Editorial: UNM compromise on use of Biology Annex a winner

Finding solutions to knotty problems is what learning should be all about. At the University of New Mexico, officials proved that to be true.

A controversial plan to turn graduate art students’ studio space in the historic Art Annex into a home for the Honors College and move the art students to the smaller Biology Annex drew passionate outcry from the art students, faculty and others on campus.

In November, regents scrapped that idea, part of a larger realignment of campus buildings, after an outside architect determined that re-purposing the 91-year-old Art Annex was not financially feasible, given the budget and the building’s age. Regents asked members of a task force to put their heads together and come up with a new plan for the vacant Biology Annex.

Their solution: An interdisciplinary center for various science disciplines.

The 8,000-square-foot Biology Annex will become a collaborative center for Earth and planetary sciences, the Museum of Southwestern Biology and the Museum Studies program. There will be new labs, places to teach and display specimens perhaps like the fossilized oreodont, a mammal that has been extinct for millions of years, and an appropriately controlled environment for storing the specimens that meets federal repository requirements for storing vertebrate fossils.

“To have the opportunity to turn this facility into a showcase and a teaching space and a laboratory preparation space for these extraordinary collections is a tremendous gift,” UNM Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Peceny said recently.

It’s a win-win-win. Now prehistoric fossils will have a permanent home, graduate art students will be able to continue to create in their light-filled studios in the Art Annex and the Honors College is likely to find a home in the Anderson School of Management, closer to the dorms and a better study/live lifestyle.

Kudos to university officials for listening to their campus constituents, thinking outside the box and finding a solution that appears to work for all.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.