About 400 graduate students live in the barracks-style Bulter units, built in 1946-47 as temporary housing.
About 400 graduate students live in the barracks-style Bulter units, built in 1946-47 as temporary housing.
Princeton University

When the Butler apartments were built on the old polo field in 1946–47 to quickly provide student housing for newly returned married veterans, the intent was to provide additional housing in short order and to demolish the barracks-style units within five years. 

Six decades later the 304 apartments of the Butler tract still house about 400 graduate students — but the clock is ticking. By June 2012 the Butler apartments will be vacated and subsequently torn down as part of a plan, estimated to cost more than $100 million, to upgrade housing that the University provides for graduate students, faculty, and staff.

“This is a major step toward continuing to fulfill our commitment to house a major portion of our graduate students in a way that helps build community and will keep as many as possible close to campus,” said William Russel, dean of the Graduate School.

The University proposes to move grad students into apartments that are currently occupied by faculty and staff. In turn, new apartments, town houses, and single-family homes for faculty and staff are planned for the 33-acre Butler tract, and new faculty/staff apartments are planned just west of Dean Mathey Court at Harrison Street and Faculty Road.

Here are the major elements of the plan, as outlined in a letter to grad students by Director of Housing Andrew Kane:

• In 2010–11 the 96-unit Hibben apartment complex, which overlooks Lake Carnegie and has about 45 percent grad students and 55 percent faculty and staff, will be closed for major renovations. The building will reopen in the fall of 2011 solely for grad students. The new rental units adjacent to Dean Mathey Court also are expected to be constructed in this time period.  

• In 2011–12 the 96-unit Magie apartment building, adjacent to Hibben and with a similar percentage of grad students and faculty/staff, will be shut down for renovations. It will reopen in the fall of 2012.

• The 154-unit Stanworth apartments, located several blocks north of Nassau Street off Bayard Lane, gradually will change from faculty/staff to grad student housing between 2011 and 2014.

• The Butler apartments are to be demolished in 2012 and replaced by
a variety of housing for faculty and staff. Tentative plans call for about 40 single-family homes, 70 town houses, and 100 apartments.

In response to the plan, some grad students distributed a flier with the message: “Save Butler! They’re coming to take our homes! 60 years of beautiful tradition — gone!” The Graduate Student Government Executive Committee said the current amount of University housing is “not sufficient,” given the challenges of finding affordable off-campus apartments.

In addition, graduate students have called for their own social space on campus as housing becomes more dispersed. Russel said that concern was “not without merit,” but that it is unclear how the reopening of Campus Club this fall may help address that need.

The University is committed to providing housing for about 70 percent of all graduate students who do not have Dissertation Completion Enrollment (DCE) status, Russel said, although the current percentage — boosted by grad students who live in the new four-year undergraduate colleges — is closer to 78 percent, a record number. University housing is guaranteed to every first-year grad student who requests it. In subsequent years grad students participate in a room-draw system, and demand exceeds the supply.