Highland Quad to be demolished by 2024

The area will host three new residential colleges poised to open in Fall 2027.

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Emily Gonçalves

Chaffin Place on Highland Quad, as photographed on May 17, 2020 (Hustler Multimedia/Emily Gonçalves)

Eigen Escario and Keng Teghen

Vanderbilt announced on July 6 that residential buildings in Highland Quadrangle (Morgan House, Lewis House, Mayfield Living Learning Lodges and Chaffin Place) will close for demolition after Spring 2024. Three new residential colleges will be built in the area and are anticipated to open in Fall 2027. The university stated that they are currently unable to comment on plans to address a potential housing deficit during the construction of the new residential buildings.

These plans mark the next phase in the university’s residential college expansion, following the construction of three new residential buildings on West End. The first of these new additions was Zeppos College, which opened in Fall 2020, followed by Rothschild College, which is opening in Fall 2022. Residential College C, located next to Rothschild College on West End, began construction in Fall 2021 and is expected to open in Fall 2024. 

According to a university representative, there are no specific details about the three new residential buildings as the buildings are still in planning stages. However, the representative emphasized that the new additions will mimic a living experience similar to other residential colleges, including faculty heads of houses and academic programming. 

Vanderbilt will be collaborating with UK-based architecture firm Foster + Partners on the design for the new residential colleges to ensure their sustainability. Per the university representative, the buildings will be designed to be “energizing” and “healthy.”

“This project also will have a positive impact on campus in other ways, as we look to prioritize sustainability, connectivity and Vanderbilt’s historic park-like setting in keeping with the university’s FutureVU initiative,” Eric Kopstain, vice chancellor for administration, said in the press release. 

Some students are skeptical about the proposed improvements to Highland, citing previous complaints about mold levels in the building. In January, 2022 graduate and Morgan House residential advisor (RA) Ben Bryce sent an email to his residents releasing the results of mold tests he conducted in his dorm. The tests showed “highly toxic” mold levels in the building.

“Demolishing Highland Quad will not solve the great Vanderbilt tradition of toxic mold in student living spaces,” Bryce said. “Mold is inevitable when the unofficial Vanderbilt policy is to ‘deny and discredit.’”

Bryce said Vanderbilt needs to reassess response to complaints like his in order to provide the best living conditions for future students.

“Future years of students must remain vigilant about their health as Vanderbilt has continually proven that they are indifferent about it,” Bryce said.

While Vanderbilt did not offer any comments with regard to Bryce’s case, the university representative maintains that students’ health and living environment remain a top priority.

“We conduct regular structural and hygienic inspections and continue to follow established protocols,” the representative said. “When mold is reported, we work closely with our on-staff industrial hygienist and remediation services and engage a third-party professional environmental testing company that uses an accredited lab. We also work with residents who file reports to determine next steps consistent with our commitment to providing safe, secure, comfortable and healthy housing for residents.”

Some students are more hopeful that the reconstruction of Highland will be an improvement. Junior Evan Chow said the addition of new residential colleges and the demolition of Highland Quad are welcomed steps forward for the Vanderbilt community.

“I’m sure the new residential colleges will revamp the look of Highland Quad, and it’s a bummer I’m going to graduate before the buildings are done,” Chow said.

Junior and former Mayfield resident Danielle Page is optimistic that improvements to Highland will include more dining options near the new residential buildings.

“For me, the most difficult thing about living in Highland was the lack of a dining hall,” Page said. “Having a res college dining hall will be a huge step toward making Highland a more desirable and convenient residence.”

According to a representative, the university is still deciding whether the destruction of the Mayfield houses would result in a loss of the Mayfield program. The university recently decided to scale back the two other Living Learning Communities (LLCs) on campus. As of Fall 2022, the McTyeire International House will be dissolved, and McGill Hall will no longer exclusively house members of the McGill project

“The Mayfield program itself was a wonderful experience and builds such an amazing community for the students,” said junior Samantha Josephson. “After demolishing Highland, Vanderbilt should try finding a way to continue implementing the Mayfield living learning community.”

Senior Rahan Arasteh said he is disappointed with the announcement of Highland’s demolition, citing its role as a staple social space on campus.

“I feel like so many parties are held in Mayfields and so many people gravitate to them, it feels like a loss,” Arasteh said.“Lots of large events or parties end up being held there because of the space and relative ease of access and it sucks that there won’t be a good replacement for them. I had a lot of college firsts and good times in the Mayfields that I don’t think suites can make up for.”

Arasteh added that the shortcomings of Highland did not prevent its residents from creating memories. 

“Emotionally, it kinda sucks that they’re tearing it down. There’s a lot of memories I have there, especially since I was there for the COVID year. But, change happens,” Arasteh said. “Half the memories come from things falling apart in there. Just in general, Morgan and Lewis were so far behind other Vandy dorms.”