“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 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.”
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.