Not many people can blame the College for blowing up their house, but Dagmar Bubriski can. In 1966, the north side of Bubriski’s house was severely damaged by a wayward explosion, part of the construction of Bronfman Science Building. Bubriski was in her living room with the town manager, who had come to investigate the dangerous proximity of the construction to the house, when they heard a tinkling of glass, accompanied by an earth-moving blast.
Immediately, the site was flooded with police, firemen, reporters and repairmen from Buildings and Grounds (B&G). The College was ready, she said, to cover up the accident lest it receive too much negative publicity. Bubriski had different ideas: her first priority was to document the damage by calling a private photographer. Using this evidence, her lawyer later reached a settlement with the building company employed by the College. Williams itself refused to become involved with the settlement process.
Although this event struck Bubriski closest to home, every building project is close to home when one has lived in Williamstown for 50 years. Bubriski remembers the College when it was much smaller: 1000 men, a handful of administrators, and no students throwing beer bottles onto her lawn. Bubriski moved to Williamstown in Feb. 1952, when her husband was employed by Sprague Electric in North Adams.
When they were first contemplating the move from New Jersey, Bubriski asked, “Williamstown? What’s in Williamstown?” More than 50 years later, there is perhaps no one better qualified to answer that question.
She has lived in the same house on Hoxsey St., 25 ft. behind Bronfman, since 1954. Her four children grew up there. Bubriski describes the Hoxsey St. area of the early ’50s as a “family kind of place. There were a lot of kids then. There are no kids now. It’s a very different town.”
When she moved here, the College was a “very small entity. You could count the number of administrators on your fingers.” She described the students of the ’50s as more serious; since some were veterans of World War II, “they felt lucky to be here.”
With her house so close to campus, it became a desirable property for the College to own. Bubriski recalls with disdain how the College treasurer bluntly asked her “how much?” around the time Bronfman was built. When she realized what he was asking, she angrily refused to even name a price, saying there was no way that she would ever be willing to move.
Bubriski had no control over the College acquiring three of the other residential properties on her street which have since been turned into co-ops, and the “shocking behavior” of students is now one of her principal grievances.
She said that her co-op neighbors show “absolutely no upbringing, no thought, no nothing. . .no care at all for the neighborhood. . ..Where do they think they’re living? In a slum?” She feels that the College should do a better job of introducing students to their neighbors. “This town has been here for over 200 years. It’s time that students got to know the people.”
With the competitive market for affordable real estate in Williamstown, Bubriski bemoans the College’s use of co-ops for students whom she feels would be better off in dorms when so many other people could use them for housing. She is critical of housing policies in general: she wonders why there is no adult supervision, citing the lack of such supervision as the reason for much rude student behavior, and describes the Junior Advisor (JA) system as “the blind leading the blind.”
In her 50 years of residence in Williamstown, Bubriski has been very involved in town politics. Through the League of Women Voters, service with two school committees, and an appointment to the Historical Commission, she has left her mark on the community.
Since she was an art history and architecture major at Mount Holyoke College, she is concerned with the College’s aesthetic renovations.
“Williams College can’t seem to pull itself together and help its own appearance,” she said.
She is especially distressed with the upcoming renovations to Adams Memorial Theater (AMT), bemoaning the alteration of a classic piece of architecture. “It’s a sin,” she said, to totally redo a building that has become cherished by the community, noting that she can’t find many people who are happy with the theater’s new design.
She is similarly angered by the recent renovations to Spring St., and said that she no longer goes there since it became a one-way street, despite its close proximity. She recalled that Spring St. was once a meeting place not just for the College but for the entire Williamstown community. She said that now many of the stores that would appeal to locals have been replaced by more upscale establishments and nobody from the town has any reason to go to Spring St.
She also wishes that the College would commission statues to represent its rich history, noting that many other campuses boast replicas of important historical figures while the College spends millions on eyes and abstract bowls.
Bubriski feels that the College should take the townspeople more into account when making decisions. “We seem to have no control whatsoever about what Williams does. It’s difficult when you live in a small community,” she said.
Bubriski noted that taxes are becoming more and more of a burden on many townspeople and that the College should be more sensitive to this since it uses many of the town’s services without having to pay taxes.
Although Bubriski is critical of many aspects of the College, bemoaning the fact that it has become “a very large conglomerate,” she still thinks Williamstown is a wonderful place to live, at least in part because of the College. She enjoys the fact that the College draws so many interesting people to what would otherwise be just another small New England town, and she also appreciates the opportunity to audit College classes, having taken an average of one a year since the mid ’60s.
Two of her children are teaching Winter Study courses this year. Although none of her kids went to Williams, she said she would have no compunctions about any of her grandchildren wanting to go there. As for herself, Bubriski has no plans to go anywhere soon, no matter how much money or flying shrapnel the College throws at her.