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Student Center talks should include all activities

We, the student activities with offices not located in the Stratton Student Center, strongly protest our exclusion from the current negotiations between the Dean's Office and the Association of Student Activities.

The upcoming renovation of the Student Center's fourth floor is more than just a paint job: it has literally become the day of judgment for all student activities. And the judgment is arbitrary indeed.

Roughly half of all student activity offices are found on the Student Center's fourth floor. Renovation plans include the relocation of several walls, a win-lose situation in which favored groups expand their empires at the expense of others.

The Dean's Office is working vigorously with the tiny ASA Executive Committee to pass quick judgment on each of the student activities. Then, among other things, the size and location of their offices will be "renovated" accordingly. Within weeks, this abstract impression of Who's Been Naughty and Nice will be "cast in stone" by construction workers. After the new walls go up, inequities and omissions in planning will be very difficult to correct.

Unfortunately, the student activities not in Stratton have reason to think that our offices will soon be "repurposed" out from under us. We call on the Dean's Office to be fair to all student activities. We must have guarantees that our current offices will remain ours. Or, we must have a fair chance to bid on the space in Stratton before it is too late.

We call on the Dean's Office to:

O+ Slow down.

O+ Open up the process to public input and scrutiny.

O+ Decide the future of Walker Memorial and Building 20 before carving up the fourth floor of Stratton.

O+ Include us genuinely and directly in the negotiations; don't just impose your decisions on us.

O+ Include us all, and treat us all equally; don't guarantee space for some and leave others hanging.

The administration is currently pushing to have an agreement in two or three weeks, a schedule which effectively eliminates any meaningful involvement (or protest and appeal) by the clubs being judged. We are shocked and perplexed by the extremely short time allotted to complete this particular phase of the years-long Stratton renovation plan.

The last similar disruption of student life took place in 1965, when most activities moved from Walker Memorial to the then-new Stratton Building. The analysis and planning to size those new offices took several qualified people over two years to complete. Despite their care, a few venerable activities were weakened by the move and closed down shortly afterwards. It is ludicrous to expect the tiny ASA ExecComm to make the same set of sensitive decisions wisely and fairly in just a couple of weeks.

The many activities located in Walker Memorial are deeply concerned about their future. It is well known that several special interest groups have filed self-serving proposals to convert Walker into: a performance center (Department of Humanities), a convention center (Food Services), an alumni center (Alumni Association), etc. All of these plans propose taking over spaces currently reserved for student activities.

Despite repeated point-blank questioning, Phillip J. Walsh of the Campus Activities Complex remains evasive on the subject of Walker Memorial. Ominously, he refused to promise that the current Walker offices will remain available for student use.

The clubs in Building 20 are equally nervous about their space. The recent Planning Office report on Building 20 cast doubt over the future of the Model Railroad Club's fabulous layout, the Electronics Research Society, and other popular groups.

The fate of clubs in Walker and Building 20 must be announced before the Stratton space is redistributed. Because some clubs have rooms in both Walker and Stratton, almost half of Walker's activity space is actually on the negotiating table right now. So are about 8000 square feet in Building E20 currently occupied by the Outing Club and various drama groups. The deal has expanded to engulf most of the resources MIT traditionally allocates for student activities. But, why isn't the plan comprehensive? Why are just a few groups unfairly shut out?

The bargaining teams are distressingly mismatched: a handful of inexperienced kids from ExecComm versus a flotilla of tough, smart penny-pinching professional negotiators from the Dean's Office. The young officers confidently wheeling and dealing for our student resources and rights may be the proverbial fish being shot in a barrel. Students must keep close track of this negotiation as it evolves.

We call on the student press to cover closely these important developments which will have a drastic impact on students' extracurricular lives.

We call on the ASA Executive Committee to substantially increase the number of students involved in these "renovation" decisions. Several groups have complained that their recent ExecComm hearings about offices were a sham. Activities don't want to be "done to" on the whim of ExecComm and the deans. We want genuine, direct involvement in the decisions which impact us. And, we want the process to be fair.

The ASA ExecComm should create an impartial "Fairness Committee" to oversee the bargaining, make sure that everyone's interests are fairly represented, and aggressively publish the detailed proceedings as they evolve.

We further call on the ExecComm to let all student activities bid on space in Stratton, not just the ones currently there.

Finally, we remind the principals involved that ExecComm's decisions are subject to overrule by the ASA General Body. We expect fairness and forthrightness. Do not enrage us by false process, unequal treatment or secret deals.

Alan Lasky G->

Special Effects Club->

Peter Rexer '91->

Pershing Rifles->

Larry Appleman G->

Voo Doo/Tool and Die->

and others->