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A Message From the President on the Status of Williams House

Dear all,

I am writing to update you on the status of Williams House. As we have discussed extensively, Williams House has not been maintained in suitable fashion over decades as the College had other priorities and was unable to devote the resources needed to sustain this building. We have had numerous consultants review what it would take to address its issues of accessibility, sustainability, and more, and refurbishing the building is not economically feasible. We have therefore, as you know, committed to removing Williams. We have worked closely with all faculty and administrators all of whom have now moved or have plans to leave Williams as of mid-August. All have been offered other faculty housing if desired. In addition, we have been able to place all new faculty who requested housing in faculty housing.

We will begin the preliminary steps in the demolition of Williams within the next several weeks. A construction fence will be erected around Williams and 159 College Avenue in mid-July, followed by other required work, and then demolition. We anticipate the whole process to be completed by early October. Our contractor will use a firm that specializes in building removal, and they have assured us that they will take steps to minimize disruption to the community during this necessary work. I have asked Dean Begemann to be available to meet with the faculty neighbors on College Avenue to answer any specific questions on this initial process as well as the estimated schedule and activity over the next few months.

Summer is an ideal time to begin this work as fewer people are around the campus and Alumnae House is closed; therefore, disruption will be less. Moreover, with the pandemic, the work for local builders is particularly needed to temper the local economic and employment impact of COVID-19.

A couple of years ago, I realized that deferred maintenance on the campus in general, and faculty housing in particular, left us no feasible option for securing the long-term use of Williams as faculty housing or another purpose. We have now added faculty housing to the schedule of capital improvements (such as work being done on the Watsons this summer), so we can provide appropriate housing to faculty. We are in negotiation to secure other housing in the area that could be available for faculty housing as soon as the 2021-2022 academic year. 

I realize that Williams has been the home of many faculty, and I appreciate the sadness that many will experience when it is no longer part of the extended campus. The same is true with the house next to Williams, which is also in substantial disrepair. During our extensive efforts to preserve Williams, we learned that some of the building systems are original, dating back to the 1920s. The plumbing and heating pipes often crumble as the College tries to fix them, and some are held together with nothing more than “fancy duct tape” at this point. It is also not accessible and does not meet our green building guidelines, and cannot be brought up to guidelines without an enormous financial investment. It is difficult to see the building come down, but our community needs safer, more accessible, and more sustainable housing than Williams can provide.

Our contractors will salvage any material that can be re-used and will dispose of the unsalvageable material in accordance with all laws and best environmental practices. All materials will be sorted for proper and responsible disposal. Metals will go to a metal recycler; masonry and stone will go to a masonry crushing plant for recycling and reuse. Mark Dion, the artist who is creating an installation for the Institute lobby, will be salvaging small items from Williams to incorporate in his work.

Please reach out to Dean Begemann or me if you have questions.

Thanks,

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President

VASSAR COLLEGE
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
@EHBVassar