This letter concerns the proposed installation of a ram statue on the lawn of the Old Library. While we all have serious doubts regarding the benefits of such an action for the University community, as articulated by the committee responsible for purchasing the statue, i.e. invoking school spirit, creating photo opportunities for visitors, and helping to increase enrollment, our main objection is one of aesthetics. The Old Library is one of the oldest and most architecturally appealing buildings on campus. Installing an animal mascot sculpture on the lawn of such an historically dignified and significant structure would, we feel, diminish the integrity and spirit of a campus that has its origins in the 19th Century and lessen the importance of historical structures in the minds of our students and other constituents who regard the campus as a source of culture and learning. The pervasive notion that bigger is better and anything that wasn’t constructed in the 21st century is insignificant, runs counter to the true meaning of a University. As our colleague Harvey Greisman has noted, the Old Library proudly displays the dictum “The true University is a collection of books.” The juxtaposition of these images (historic and ovine) seems to us to be, at best, questionable and an open invitation to mischief of various kinds.
Certainly, the clash of statue and structure in proximity of this historic building makes one think perhaps not of school spirit, but of the American kitsch so prevalent in today’s disposable world. Historic preservation and intellectual priorities seem to us to be paramount at a university. These notions are not inimical to school spirit or photo opportunities. At the very least, let us remain unambiguous by placing them in a proper context that speaks of priorities as the building’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places reminds us.
Perhaps a better placement for this fixture would be in front of Sykes, and not before a historic beauty that is one of the true gems of our campus. If not Sykes then let those who wish to have the ram statue as a neighbor bid for a place of permanent residency near them.
As for the Old Library….Thanks…but no thanks!
Jeanne King is the Director of Sponsored Research at West Chester University. Douglas McConatha is a Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at West Chester University.