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20 Rooms Empty in Huntington Hall

By Ann Ames
Associate Sports Editor

With less than two weeks before the beginning of classes, there are still nearly 20 unassigned rooms in MIT's newest dormitory, Huntington Hall. MIT leased Huntington from the Massachusetts College of Art in Longwood as part of an effort to reduce overcrowding in undergraduate dormitories.

Although the original plan was to lease 90 rooms from MCA, only 68 were available when the contract was signed in midsummer. This is because MCA had more requests for housing than they had expected, according to Andrew M. Eisenmann, associate dean for residence and campus activities.

To date, 48 MIT students have volunteered to live in Huntington Hall, all but two of them in singles, according to Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith. "An active recruiting effort is in progress" to find willing occupants of the other spaces, he said. In addition, three rooms will be used to house graduate tutors, and one has been reserved for an Athena cluster.

The Institute still has not determined how it will fill the remaining rooms, Smith said. But he feels that this can be accomplished without forcing students to move from other dormitories.

"We haven't decided on the exact strategy to use if we fall short," Smith said. But the Institute definitely does "not intend to house freshmen in Huntington Hall," he added.

The primary concern in filling these spaces is very specific: to limit the number of dormitory crowds to 165. This is a significant reduction from last year when 226 freshmen lived in crowded rooms and 20 transfer students were placed in graduate housing. To help achieve this goal, this year's freshman class size was reduced to 1080, and a smaller number of transfer students was admitted, Smith said.

If the campus-wide dormitory population is kept at or below this goal, any extra rooms at Huntington may be offered to undergraduates not in the housing system or to graduate students, Smith said. He added that "MIT has a goal of housing half its graduate population, but has not been able to keep up" with that group's current rate of growth. Even so, the demand for graduate housing is currently not as strong as it has been in past years and fluctuates with off-campus rent.

Since the entrance of the Class of 1995, MIT's dormitories have been oversubscribed by more than 200 students, forcing such drastic and uncomfortable measures as the conversion of MacGregor Hall lounges to bedrooms and the formation of quintuples in Baker House.

While the new rooms are not expected to solve all of MIT's housing dilemmas, they are intended to eliminate the need for such exceptional inconvenience and to help accommodate the current growth of MIT's undergraduate population. The alternative without additional housing, according to Smith, would be to admit smaller than normal numbers of students for the next couple of years, in order to balance the last several large classes. A new dormitory is likely to be built within the next few years, but this offers no relief to today's crowded undergraduates, Smith said.

The Institute has, therefore, settled on the current solution as a bridge to permanent housing expansion, but at no small cost. In an attempt to make the new rooms as attractive as possible, MIT is subsidizing both rent and transportation expenses, offering monthly combined bus and subway passes to Huntington Hall residents at half-price. Private phones and ethernet drops will be installed in each room, and a small cluster of four or five Athena machines will be installed.

By charging students only $750 for a single room, MIT will lose money on the deal. But the difference will be paid out of general funds and will not contribute to the overall housing costs at MIT, Smith said.

Although Huntington is located near the Mission Hill Projects, there have been no major incidents in the area in recent years. With surveillance cameras outside the building and a 24-hour security guard and check-in desk inside, the security of the facility itself is not particularly in question, Smith said.

Transportation to the dormitory is a more serious issue. A Safe Ride will include a regular stop at Huntington Hall, and "rides will be available to students" during hours when neither Safe Ride nor the T is in operation, according to Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin.

There will be no official parking accommodations, Smith said, except in the cases of students with particular physical needs.