There’s an audible buzz of productivity at the political science building on Sachem Street, but it’s not coming from the faculty.
A termite problem in 70 Sachem St., home to more than a dozen political science faculty, is so serious that the building will be demolished or undergo a major structural renovation, said Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer. The discovery of severe termite infestation throughout the building several weeks ago will force its faculty inhabitants into swing space sometime after the end of the academic year.
“You can hear the termites eating away as you walk up Sachem Street,” Richard said. “The termites themselves are holding up some parts of the building.”
Action taken on the 70 Sachem building could disrupt social science area renovation plans, since it was not slated for a total overhaul in the near future. University officials are moving quickly to determine how to remedy the problem without displacing a significant portion of faculty in one of Yale’s largest departments for a longer than necessary. They also would prefer not to radically alter a key social science planning initiative, which involves renovations to several buildings on or near Hillhouse Avenue.
The political science department is officially located in Brewster Hall at 124 Prospect St., but its large number of faculty requires the additional occupation of 70 Sachem.
It remains unclear why the serious termite problem in the building was not discovered sooner. Richard said she did not think there were routine termite inspections, and physical plant officials did not return phone calls.
While termites are common in the New Haven area, Yale does not frequently experience problems of the magnitude discovered at 70 Sachem.
“Most of Yale’s buildings are steel and concrete, and it’s only the old houses that have termite problems,” Yale director of project management Arch Currie said.
University officials are now weighing three options, Richard said. 70 Sachem will either be demolished, with a new building on the same site; demolished with new space to be constructed elsewhere; or renovated for continued use. A study of the building and its structural state is ongoing.
In any case, affected faculty will have to be moved elsewhere.
“We’re looking for space now,” Richard said.
Political Science chair Ian Shapiro said Richard assured him that in the event members of his department were displaced, they would be housed in high-quality swing space.
Perhaps a more serious result of the termite damage would be its impact on the social science area planning. Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead is chairing a committee examining the use of social science space and future renovation plans.
A long-term project at 70 Sachem would complicate other plans for nearby buildings. Administrators are leery of working on too many facilities simultaneously because of labor costs and extra debt burden, among other factors. As a result, a multi-year endeavor at 70 Sachem could push back other projects in the social science area plan.
But for now, officials say they are confident that pesky termites will not chew on University plans.
“The social science planning initiative I’ve been asked to chair can easily be expanded to include a consideration of further needs that may arise in this part of the campus,” Brodhead wrote in an e-mail. “If this problem had to strike, it’s more or less ideal to have it happen when we’re already in the process of considering needs and opportunities in the social sciences.”
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”20705″ ]