Trustees will hear faculty Berry gripes

by Jake Elberg | 11/4/97 6:00am

College Trustee Susan Dentzer said the Board of Trustees plans to hear from members of the faculty who are opposed to the current Berry Library plans -- despite comments from the College's top two administrators that they are happy with the plans as they are now. Dentzer's comments come in the wake of a special meeting yesterday at which many members of the faculty demanded changes to plans for the library.

According to Dentzer, the plans the Board has approved for the Berry Library project are not finalized yet, though the sketches have been approved and a number of members of the Board like the design created by architect Robert Venturi.

Although Dentzer said the Board will listen to the concerns of the faculty, a College insider who asked to remain unnamed said the Trustees have indicated they like the proposal -- and are unlikely to change the design in any major way.

Art History Professor Joy Kenseth said yesterday that faculty members -- including a majority of the Design Review Committee -- who oppose Venturi's design will ask the Trustees for an opportunity to voice their concerns when the Board meets in Hanover on Nov. 14.

However, Dentzer said the faculty members will have the opportunity to express their concerns after an open meeting on Nov. 24, when architect Jeffrey Freeman -- who worked closely with Venturi -- will present the plans.

Despite the dissent voiced this week by many members of the faculty, College Provost James Wright said yesterday it is "certainly our intention to proceed with this plan in the spring. It is important to move the library ahead and have it completed on schedule."

No changes can be made to the current plans if construction is to begin as scheduled in the spring, according to Wright.

Kenseth said she thinks there is a rush to begin construction in the spring because of a request from John W. Berry '44, the Berry Library's primary donor.

"This is partly triggered by John Berry, who does want a groundbreaking in the spring," said Kenseth, who said she learned this from College President James Freedman.

Freedman declined to comment yesterday on the plans for the library or on Berry's request, but in an interview with the Dartmouth on Sunday, Freedman said he is "very comfortable" with the current plans.

"A lot of people have put a lot of time into this building, including one of the best architects in the world -- Robert Venturi," Freedman said.

The Design Review Committee -- the committee of professors and administrators which advises the Trustees on architectural decisions -- has never actually met with the Trustees, who hold final approval power of the plans. Instead, the committee advises the provost and the president, who in turn advises the Board of Trustees.

"The consensus of the committee not only deplores the design, but actually dislikes it," Art History Professor and committee member Robert McGrath said. "But we know that the committee serves at the pleasure of the president" and has no power to mandate changes to the plans.

"It's the way an institution works," College Architect and committee chair George Hathorn said. "It's disappointing, but it's reality."

Kenseth said she would like the opportunity to speak with the Board because she is not convinced that they are "absolutely and passionately committed to these plans" and they have not yet heard any argument against the plan.

Kenseth said she does not feel that it is too late to change the design, but at yesterday's meeting, some members of the faculty said they feared there was nothing they could do to stop the building from being built as planned.