20 November 2012
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
Yesterday I received letters signed by many of you that urge a full and open discussion of all the issues involved in renovating and reopening Perry House or in relocating it to a newly constructed facility. The letters request that a committee of students, faculty and staff be formed and charged with thoroughly investigating the options before us and that this committee operate with a process that allows maximum input from the entire Bryn Mawr community. I fully support this request and will move immediately to direct the formation of such a committee and to assure that its recommendations receive the most serious consideration.
If you have not yet done so, please read the letters (attached) that were circulated yesterday. The longer of the two provides an eloquent and stirring evocation of the place that Perry holds in the hearts of so many members of the Bryn Mawr community, including the generations of alumnae who have lived there over the years or who have enjoyed the communal gatherings hosted in the house. These passionate remarks are important because they remind all of us that a decision about the future of Perry House is not simply a financial calculation. Rather, it is a deliberation that must consider matters of cultural context, of symbolic value and of historical significance.
As a prelude to that deliberation, I would like to make three points:
1. I will ask the committee to address the future of all three of Bryn Mawr’s non-dormitory housing options, Perry House, Batten House and the Mermont apartments, so that we can make some comprehensive decisions about the future configurations of campus housing. The history and significance of Perry, however, must receive special attention within the committee’s considerations for the reasons outlined so powerfully and poignantly in yesterday’s letters.
2. I will also ask the committee to advise us on the future of the Black Cultural Center, a cherished collection of books and art objects that have been housed in Perry. The book collection is currently located in the Pensby Center and the artifacts are with the College’s curator. Should these be returned to Perry, whether in its existing location or in its new location? Should they be showcased in a more accessible College venue, e.g. the London Room, or Quita Woodward Room, or an exhibition area within Canaday, or a dedicated place on Cambrian Row or some other location?
3. My third point is one that I would like to underscore. No decision about Perry House (or Batten House or the Mermont apartments) has been made. I am not asking the Bryn Mawr community to engage in a process for which there is already a predetermined conclusion. I do, however, think we should take the time to make a thoughtful, well-informed and deliberate decision, a decision that will shape our future and that will have consequences for many classes of students to come.
Finally, I would like to wish the entire Bryn Mawr community a very happy Thanksgiving. One of the things for which I will be giving thanks is the privilege of working with students, faculty and staff who are so deeply dedicated to the foundational values of this College: the importance of each individual voice, the creative power of consensus and the abiding commitment to justice and equity.
With best wishes,