Oscar Ritchie Hall construction falling into place

Christina Stavale

Faculty takes a tour of the building to see the progress of the renovation project

Francis Dorsey describes some of the changes and improvements to Oscar Ritchie Hall during a tour of the building yesterday. PHOTO COURTESY OF GARY HARWOOD

Credit: DKS Editors

WATCH video of the tour.

Oscar Ritchie Hall has never had central air or elevators. Its lecture hall once double-functioned as a multi-purpose room where students also held dances. And nearly all the furniture was hand-me-downs.

Last spring the university began renovations to bring this building, that houses the department of Pan-African Studies, to state of the art standards. And yesterday, Beth Ruffing, assistant director for capital design and construction, led faculty on a tour of the building, proving that change is underway.

The walls on the second and third floors of the building are in place, with boxes and wooden cabinets filling the rooms that are lit with temporary lights strung on yellow cords. But the shape of the building is beginning to form; Ruffing pointed out an indent in the wall in a hallway where one of four flat screen televisions will be. A curved inset of one second floor wall, she said, will be the ticket office for the African Community Theatre.


The African-American Studies program and the black cultural center moved to the old Student Union building (now Oscar Ritchie Hall) when the current Student Center opens. The program and center are now called the Institute for African-American and Pan-African culture.


The old Student Union is dedicated as Oscar Ritchie Hall, after the first black professor at Kent State and at a public Ohio university. The department is located on the ground floor.


Pan-African studies now claims the entire building.


Black United Students holds a protest in Risman Plaza in order to get renovations for Oscar Ritchie Hall. Over the summer, $200,000 in repairs to the building are completed.


Oscar Ritchie is slated for a major overhaul, with $9 million in renovations. Pan-African Studies department moves to the Lincoln Building during the renovations. Currently, the building is being painted and floored. The renovation will be complete in July 2008.

– The Burr

“Think outside of the box,” said Francis Dorsey, interim chair of the department of Pan-African Studies. “It’s not going to be the way it used to be.”

The African Community Theatre will now have a storage area – something it did not have before. Dorsey said this new area will be helpful to store furniture and old sets.

Another highlight of the new building will be the educational technology. The new lecture hall will have a 24-foot-wide screen and a teacher workstation. Each of the five classrooms and two seminar rooms will also have a teacher workstation.

The lecture hall screen will also have the capability to simulcast to other areas of the building.

Amoaba Gooden, assistant professor of Pan-African Studies, said the technology capabilities in the new building are what excite her the most.

“It will provide ways of advancing learning,” she said. “(Before the renovations), each classroom didn’t have technology.”

Ruffing said the renovation progress has been on track for the most part, though they’ve had to work around a few unforeseen conditions. People have been working on the building every day, and Ruffing said within six to nine weeks, she hopes painting and flooring will be complete.

“I’m very pleased with the progress,” said Tim Moore, associate professor of Pan-African Studies. “And I’m very excited over the potential that will come from the reopening.”

Moore, also associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was a student at Kent State when Oscar Ritchie Hall was the Student Union. He’s been around to see its progression from that to the department of Pan-African Studies to the building it will be when it opens next year.

“Finally it’s been upgraded to have the facilities like central air and elevators,” he said.

Linda Piccirillo-Smith, lecturer in English and Pan-African Studies, said yesterday’s tour made her excited to see how things are going to be next fall.

“Just getting reoriented to see how everything is going to be and being able to envision it, instead of it being just hypothetical – it’s incredible,” she said.

George Garrison, professor of Pan-African Studies, said the renovations symbolize generations of work.

“I think about what led to the renovations and all the work that students did,” he said. “You’re witnessing several generations of student activism. It symbolizes the struggle for justice and equality on this campus. The whole campus can be proud of this because it’s definitely one of the jewels.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].