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GSC polls grads on housing

By Irene C. Kuo

Seventy percent of graduate students polled in a recent survey would want on-campus housing if it were offered, according to Robert D. Kiss G, a member of the Graduate Student Council Housing and Community Affairs Committee.

The purpose of the survey was to hear from the graduate student body as a whole on this issue, Kiss said. In the past, small but vocal groups have tried to present their views, he explained. The committee distributed the survey along with registration material in February; 1550 students -- roughly 30 percent of the graduate population -- responded.

"Approximately 25 percent of graduate students live on-campus, but between the GSC and the Housing Office, we felt that more than that percentage of students wanted such housing," Kiss said. "We just had to look at the number of applications and the size of the wait-lists."

He could not recall when graduate students were last surveyed on housing, though he said that many of the questions in the February survey had never been asked.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents thought that new graduate students should receive priority to live on-campus. Kiss said that very few of them now do so because of the tenure policy, which allows students to stay on-campus as long as they want once they are assigned there. As a result of the low turnover rate, first-year students, "who would benefit the most, are for the most part denied access to on-campus housing," Kiss wrote in The Graduate Student News.

As an example Kiss noted that only twenty-six percent of new graduate students who wanted to live at Tang Hall in fall term 1988 were granted spaces there.

"New students should not be thrown into the Boston housing market when they arrive," Kiss said. Foreign students having problems with English face even more difficulties, he added.

The new graduate dormitory being built on Albany Street will have 180 beds, but Kiss felt that incoming students would continue to bear the brunt of the housing shortage if the tenure policy continues.

The survey found that the rent for an off-campus single room averaged $435 per month; married couples paid an average of $480 per month. By contrast, rents for single rooms on campus ranged between $220 and $315 per month. As low rents may be one reason for the high demand for on-campus housing, the Housing Office is toying with the idea of raising rents to off-campus rates in order to adjust demand, according to Kiss.

"The housing committee feels that the solution would be to increase the total number of beds, but [this is not] a viable alternative in the short-run," Kiss said. "We can't have more beds overnight."

Another idea that the Housing Office is investigating is to limit the length of time a graduate student can stay in on-campus housing to five years, Kiss noted.

Twenty-seven percent of the survey respondents -- 60 percent of the females and 20 percent of the males -- said that they did not feel safe walking home. As the survey included students who live on-campus, probably more than twenty-seven percent of students living off-campus have this concern, Kiss said. Fifty-four percent of the students said their work required them to stay at MIT past 11 pm.