Old Dominion, NC (WZIP 1/6/07) -- That's the buzz around campus, anyway, according to several staff and faculty sources. The facts, apparently, are that Lenoir-Rhyne University Vice President and Dean of Long Range Planning, Nikita Cartwright Smith -- famously known as "La Femme Nikita" -- was the animating spirit behind the LRU administration's plan to raze Highland Hall," which was built originally as a residence hall generations ago and most recently served as a faculty office building. The demolition was carried out during the last week of May, 2007, over the protests of numerous LRU alumni.
Long at loggerheads with some of the more conservative University faculty and staff over various campus policies, Smith has been on the cutting edge of promoting progressive policies, even where this has sometimes rankled the sensibilities of more traditional-minded faculty, staff and students. "This building was a rat-infested eye-sore," she was quoted as having said, by a source who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. "I want to avoid having my knee caps busted," said the source.
One professor whose office was housed in Highland Hall for many years is Dr. Richard McNealy, Professor of Classical Mesopotamian Languages. "I am grateful for the office Lenoir-Rhyne provided me in Highland Hall over the years. It had become very dear to me," he said. "I taught some of my best seminars in Ugaritic in my third-floor office, even though it had no heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. My students and I developed a real sense of solidarity parsing Ugaritic verbs around a kerosene heater during the cold winter months."
LRU administration officials could not be reached for comment.
However, a political science professor, Ingred Tillman, opined: "It is hard to imagine how this old building -- hoary with age and tradition -- did not rankle the progressive and slightly-left-of-center sensibilities of Nikita [Smith] whenever she saw it. Her office in the Lindberger building, is adjacent to Highland Hall."
According to WZIP sources, the University master plan called for the razing of Highland Hall. "Come hell or high water, Nikita wouldn't let anything stand in her way," said one former tenant of Highland Hall. "She's just lucky Professor Emanuel McGitlin is retired and no longer around, or she'd surely have hell to pay."