Ohio University’s Athens campus is beautiful. Part of that is the conformity of most buildings to the red brick and white pillar style associated with the 18th century.
Dominating West Green is an Independence Hall look-alike and more modern structures echo this early American look.
What does this appearance say about the experience of education, population and culture in this place? It states forcefully that OU is an American institution rooted in Western traditions of learning and thought. No matter what ideas or perspectives are presented and analyzed in classrooms and at performances or lectures, the visible context is European-American history.
Meanwhile the university stresses its welcome to international students and American students with diverse ethnic backgrounds. Courses of study and events on campus feature and celebrate people from all over the world. Some ideas presented in these discussions are critically negative concerning the history and culture reflected in the architecture.
Is this dissonance important? Many will say no. Of course a university over two centuries old will have a lot of residue from its past in its present. Of course it is reflective of its location and cultural background. A small city is less cosmopolitan, especially in a rural area.
As diversity and universality are appropriately promoted in modern education, however, it might be good to have more variety in town and gown. At least one new building in town, the Central Hotel, is strikingly modern. That’s one small step toward visible architectural diversity.