Albion College is dead to me.


“Albion, dear Albion, we pledge our love to thee.”

Yeah, that is until you unceremoniously crapped on the one area of campus I treasured most — the Gerstacker International House.

The I-House, as we fondly called it, was my home away from home. As a language major, you were required to live in the I-House for a semester. I lived there for three years as an undergrad, and had the privilege of living with other language majors and the native speakers who led our house’s programs and tutorials for the year. It was a very unique and special place — a refuge that made me think Albion was right for me.

I-House buddy Esther and me, all "Deutsched" out for the annual I-House German dinner, circa 1999.

I met some of my best college buddies there. My sophomore year, I roomed with Marco, the crazy German who made movies. We held weekly meetings and organized stupid events (scavenger hunt!) to exercise our language skills and learn more about the culture. Every year each house (French, German and Spanish) had to prepare a meal for other I-House residents and foreign language staff and students. And each year it was a bit of a hilarious failure. I think in my junior year we actually served fried bologna and sauerkraut — ganz authentisch!

One of the best features of the I-House was the courtyard — a common ground for the building’s distinctive residents. I remember BBQ-ing in the gorgeous courtyard each summer on their big smoker grill with the native speakers. My skull still rattles thinking about the many times I walked into the giant plate-glass sliding doors that led into the courtyard. One Halloween, the German and French houses combined efforts to transform the space into a haunted cemetary.

It was a community, a home, a learning experience.

I found out this weekend — rather casually over drinks with my friend Sarah, another Albion alum and former I-House resident — that the I-House has been razed. Leveled. Demolished.

I was stunned — not only by the news itself, but also by the fact that there seemed to be no prior announcement made to anyone about this.

In my quest to find some answers, I came across this article (with photo):

The college’s Gerstacker International House, or I-House, which once housed foreign language programs, was razed last week. Demolition began Dec. 14, after the facility had been removed from use this fall. The semester ended Dec. 11.

College officials are planning to build a green space on the site near E. Erie and S. Hannah streets to make the campus more walkable.

…it goes on:

We didn’t really explore any other options. We are working to make our campus more pedestrian-friendly. This was an opportunity,” said Mike Frandsen, vice president for finance and administration. “The design was such that (the building’s) usefulness today was limited. It was at a point in its life where the mechanics needed to be upgraded.”

“Next spring, as weather permits, we’ll begin the planning of the garden and those things,” he said. “There’s no plans to put another building on that site.”

So, I gather this key aspect of Albion’s foreign language program, which I believed was one of the best things the college had to offer, interfered with the walkability of the campus to such a degree, Albion officials didn’t even think twice about dismantling it. In fact, it was “an opportunity.”

How insulting.

The question still remains: where do the native speakers and language majors live now? According to Albion’s web site, “Gerstacker International House is closing, but the I-House program will continue on the top floor of Whitehouse.”

They’ve reserved a floor of a dorm building to replace what the I-House once used to achieve.

Dear Albion College: you can officially Suck It. Remove me from your phone lists and contact sheets. I’ve no use for you.

Yeah. Nice knowing you, I-House.

21 thoughts on “Albion College is dead to me.

  1. FUCK! OMG i’m so sad :( :'( We lived there, too, when Steve was the resident artist in 2004. In the awesome lofty guest apartment. How is this saving money in times of economic crisis??????????????????????????????????????????????I don’t fucking get it.

    1. Yup. To categorize this demolition as an effort to drive the campus’s “sustainability” just makes me want to scratch my eyes out.

  2. Thats stupid. I hear they’re going to/were going to/maybe already have demolished the wonderful old English building on MSU campus to put in a parking garage.

    The Times – they are a’changin’….

    1. And I’d LOVE to know if the frat buildings are entirely up to code. Do you think they would demolish those and not replace them? HELL. NO.

  3. Come on people…do some research first. The I-House looked great on the outside, but it was going to cost over $2 million to fix the mechanical and electrical problems, plus put a new roof on it. Secondly with the addition of Japanese and probable additions of Chinese and another language, the structure of the I-house was outdated.

    While there are no immediate plans to “rebuild” the I-house, there has been significant discussion in regards to new space being created in the future…and everything is dependent on fundraising. Also the response from current students living in the Foreign language areas of Whitehouse has been very positive.

    It sucks when something you love changes, but before you declare an organic institution dead to you, understand that change happens and often for the better.

    Yeah there’s some spin here in the article, but the fact that the I-House was in awful condition and wasn’t livable, left the college few options.

    Also the demolition was announced across campus in early October of this year…but was widely known last spring when it was announced it would be offline for 2009-10.

    1. Re: these “discussions” you say are in place to rebuild the I-House: Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it, “GoBrits.” Also, seems funny to me that they would tear down the building without any fundraising efforts made or announced. Or plans in place.

      If there are concrete plans in place to rebuild, please let me know. I would donate to that effort. However, it’s hard to think there are any, as the Albion College website says nothing to that effect — not even these “discussions” you mention.

    2. uh, they cut out Japanese already and aren’t planning any new languages. Albion College does not care about anything anymore except the almighty dollar.

    3. The change hasn’t been for the “better” necessarily in 2016–the i-space has been moved to Fiske Hall (on the corner of Cass and Ingham). While a nice old building, it has a serious mold problem the administration has been casually ignoring despite the best efforts of some. And my understanding is that the only languages officially in the house/program are Spanish, French, and German–they might be trying to bring back Japanese, I’ve heard. All anything is around here still is a lack of transparency and communication about what is going on. But hey, private college, private dealings?

  4. sorry you missed the on-campus presentation of the 20 year Master Plan. It was quite informative in regards to what would be happening to the campus in regards to parking, the library, wellness/athletic facilities etc. The I-House issue was broached…but was not one of the hot topics (wellnes and library)

    Some items were up in the air and are dependent on fundraising, which is the prudent thing to do.
    From the online Pleiad:

    ” (In October) The board received the same presentation that was shown to the campus community during an open forum in September. The Master Plan is a proposed blueprint of renovations and aesthetic goals the campus would like to achieve in the next 20 years.”

    I am sure when there are concrete plans the college will let you know..along with everyone else.

    Glad you are so passionate, albeit cynical.

    1. Huh. So a TWENTY YEAR master plan was presented, where the I-House was vaguely included, though not as a “hot topic”?

      Doesn’t sound too promising.

      Sigh.

  5. Hi Bob, oh this is sad! We did have good times at the I-House. I remember us sitting in the court yard and you were playing funky songs on your guitar ;-). Good times. Love from Munich, Eva

    1. Eva! Yes, I recall singing crazy songs in the courtyard — but it was Sarah who did the guitar playing. I can only play the Horn. And the radio. ;)

  6. I am so dismayed by this. Spent a few lovely years in German house, as well. This is a crying shame, and I’m sorry this alumna was not allowed any input on it. I just gave a nice gift last year, too. Well, here’s to “progress.” *scoff*

  7. who would have known that your article could cause such a stir.

    i wont forget the evenings spent there: knowing you were home from the sounds of your voice singing broadway showtunes travelling up the airvents to my floor above, nights of bbq-ing singing songs of “half hair,” watching drunk ogres run into the sliding glass windows, coming back from class to be greeted by the christian coalition…ooops, i mean campus crusade for christ, and meeting your bathroom floor first before YOU.

    although albion college took the ihouse away, they can’t take the memories.

    xox

  8. It seems tlike the college is covering its ass with BS PR Just like politics just add some spin. They can perch and spin.

  9. I was sad when I first heard that the building was going to be demolished. The I-House was really cool when it first opened. But 40 years later, the building was out of code, out of date and too expensive to rehab. I’ve seen a ton of changes on campus since I graduated in 1976, but a building does not make a campus, or a community. The students and profs do.

    1. “a building does not make a campus, or a community.”

      Really? Do you honesty believe that? So, we could just have a campus made up of Winnebagos and nothing would change?

      The iHouse was a selling point for many students, which would draw in students and professors.

      Buildings and communities go hand-in-hand.

      1. The correct words to the song your quote are not “Albion, dear Albion, we pledge our love to thee.” They are: “Albion, dear Albion, hear our song to thee.”

  10. More bad news – all untenured tenure-track profs were fired last week, and the Board has amended the Faculty Handbook to allow them to eliminate 15 faculty, including possibly tenured people, by the end of May. Some of the fired tenure-track folks will be rehired, but nobody knows who. Check out the online Pleiad for articles about these events.

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