Pearson A Classroom to Be “Gutted” for Academic Skills Center

Pearson A, a classroom in Pearson Hall known for its iconic, built-in wooden desks etched with decades worth of doodles and notes, will be replaced by the Academic Skills Center (ASC) with the library undergoing a complete renovation during the next academic year.

Patricia Davison, Director of the ASC and Coordinator of Student Disability Resources, said that the committee carefully considered the placement of their offices, emphasizing that proximity and suitable access were important factors in their decision.

Pearson Hall has four large classrooms — two on each floor — and one small seminar room on the ground floor. Since 2013, the Tang Institute has occupied one of the first-floor rooms. According to Elizabeth Meyer, Head of the World Languages Division, the Tang Institute’s stay in Pearson Hall was initially only intended to last one year. This setup, however, is likely to remain permanent, according to Meyer.

Meyer expressed the Classics Department’s willingness to share their space, but also spoke about the challenges that will come with being relegated to the second floor.

“It’s going to be difficult for us to have to move all the way upstairs because we won’t just lose Pearson A — it seems that we also will lose this seminar room downstairs,” said Meyer.

Many students and faculty believe that the history of Pearson remains an essential element to the building. Alexandra LeBaron ’20, a Latin student, has taken classes at Pearson since her Junior year. She hopes to add Ancient Greek to her course load next year.

“One thing I love about Pearson is just the historic aspect. I love the high ceilings and how the desks are… all antique, and it’s really cool to see all the carvings in there because they’ve been there for at least 80 years, probably more. It’s just really nice to study Latin and the classics in a building that’s so historical because I feel like it’s a setting for the topic,” said LeBaron.

Nolan Sun ’21, a Latin student, shared views similar to LeBaron’s.

“Even though it’s my first year taking a classics language, because the classroom is not very high-tech or it’s not very new and renovated, it feels like you’re learning something different or something more ancient,” said Sun.

Melinda Zhang ’21, who also takes Latin, appreciates Pearson’s design and architecture, but also views the possible transition as beneficial. She sees the benefits of the location and possibility of more students being exposed to languages positively.

If the ASC is moved to Pearson A, organizing scheduling and space will become complicated, according to Meyer. She explained that many students take both Latin and Greek, causing extra scheduling strain with only classrooms on the second floor.

On top of that, the Classics Department will have to find a new space for conference period. Unlike Samuel Phillips Hall, Pearson does not have communal office space.

Joshua Mann, Head of the Classics Department, said, “The Classics department has, for some time now, been the de facto stewards of Pearson Hall. I am dismayed that, in the first year as chair, I am witnessing the erasure of one of the keystone rooms in the building. There are photographs of this room for the late nineteenth century and it looks charmingly familiar and welcoming. What disturbs me is that i feel we might be sacrificing about a hundred and fifty years of lovingly preserved history for expedience and convenience.”

“Yes, the plan is going forward, though I still am trying to have some discussions with the OWHL steering board to see if there are any other possible solutions. I am not very sanguine about this avenue, however,” continued Mann.

Meyer thinks that people sometimes view the Classics Department as having more space than it needs.

She said, “Since Academic Skills needs this space, someone decided to put it into Pearson, but I don’t think it’s that Academic Skills didn’t have a home and wanted to move in here. I think if it weren’t Academic Skills, they would be thinking about putting something else in here.”

Meyer expressed her willingness to share the space, but lamented how willing the school was to tear up and repurpose such a historic space.

“We’re really sad about losing the history and the character of the rooms themselves. We’d like to share Pearson as the Classics building, and the thought of gutting that beautiful room and just putting in office space or cubbies…” said Meyer.

She continued, “I feel like the decision is being made pretty quickly, and you can’t ever go back from that. Once [the space is] destroyed, it’s destroyed. I wish that we could put the brakes on and really think about what we’re doing. Do we really need to destroy a space that’s so iconic and means so much to our students and to alums, generations and generations of alums?”

Charlie Mayhew ’18, a four-year student of both Latin and Ancient Greek, reflected on the decision as indicative of a larger administrative oversight.

“Throughout my whole Andover career, I have watched administrators deeply misunderstand what the Classics Department does and what it means to its students. So the plans for the renovation are devastating, but unsurprising. I will continue to fight this decision until the day they rip up the floors. There has to be another way,” he said.

Editor’s Note: Charlie Mayhew is an Eighth Page Editor for The Phillipian