Humanities Center Building
Plan Moves Ahead
Construction crews will begin work in June transforming
Demosthenean Hall, the former Delta Upsilon fraternity
house, into a hub for the humanities at Bucknell. When it
reopens next spring, the building will house the Humanities
Center, an initiative launched in 2016 to enhance the visibility
of the humanities and foster excellence in scholarship and
teaching, as well as the Bucknell University Press and Griot
Institute for Africana Studies.
Approved by the Board of Trustees in February, the project
will add a new 7,000-square-foot wing opposite the Vaughan
Literature Building, bringing the building’s scale and
appearance closer in line with its grander neighbors, Bertrand
Library and Dana Engineering, and reorienting the main
entrance to face Vaughan Lit.
Plans for the renovations were developed with extensive
input from Bucknell’s Humanities Council and reflect student
demands for more informal meeting spaces through the
addition of a new great room, large enough to accommodate
100 people, as well as several seminar rooms and informal
“The students we polled were almost unanimous in saying
that they wanted a space where they could do intellectual
work that wasn’t a classroom, dormitory or social space,”
says Professor James Mark Shields, director of the
Humanities Center. “We want to expand the humanities
beyond the classroom with the grand vision of making the
humanities a greater part of the identity of the University.”
Preliminary blueprints also include an outdoor patio space
and formal garden, central atrium with a climbing “green wall”
of plants, green roof, digital humanities laboratory and library.
Currently home to the computing & technology affinity
house, Demosthenean Hall was built in 1941 by the fraternity
Delta Sigma, which later would become a chapter of Delta
Upsilon, and expanded in 1966. In 2005 the University
acquired the building and made significant improvements.
Bucknell plans to preserve the building’s historic character
and display artifacts from Delta Upsilon inside. Should the
chapter recolonize, the University will provide affinity housing.
— Matt Hughes
Some more modestly attended public
actions have also taken place in front of
the library this semester. Among them
was a Feb. 9 reading of Coretta Scott
King’s 1986 letter opposing Jeff Sessions’ appointment as a federal judge.
Sessions was confirmed later that day as
U.S. attorney general.
Since Feb. 15 three professors, three
staff members and one student have
gathered for about 20 minutes on weekday mornings, holding signs that address
concerns about climate change. According to one participant, Sabrina Kirby,
this is not part of a larger effort. The
group “wants to personally acknowledge
the urgency of the problem of climate
change and make a locally ‘invisible’
problem more visible.”
A candlelight vigil (top) and a rally drew
concerned students, faculty and staff.
Though Bucknell is not known
historically as a hotbed of student
activism, there have been surges. The
Vietnam War era was perhaps the most
activist time in the University’s history,
but protests against apartheid in the
1980s, sweatshops in the 1990s and in
support of Black Lives Matter in recent
years have brought out students, faculty
and staff supporters.
To read a Bucknellian article on the
history of activism at Bucknell,
letters by Barbara Helmcke ’68 and
photos regarding campus activism that echo
this spring semester’s events, download the
Bucknell Magazine app or go to bucknell.
Architectural renderings depict the new center.