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Residents Ask for Time to Organize

Sharon N. Young-Pong -- The Tech
This "Sport Death" banner flying over McCormick Hall on Wednesday reads "Let Senior House Live." It is part of the student protest against the housing proposal to move all undergraduate students to west campus.

By Eva Moy
Senior Editor

While the administration is pushing to quickly finalize a decision about who will live in Senior House after it is renovated, the Senior House-East Campus Action Committee is asking for more time to organize and present alternatives to moving.

The administration "wants to renovate Senior House. That's at the top of their list of things to do. It is highly likely that they want to get this done this coming summer or the next one," said Rebecca Richkus '97, one of the SHEC Action Committee co-chairs.

"We realize that the decision is pressing and that renovations are not a quick one-month thing," said the other committee co-chair Dhaya Lakshminarayan '96, who is also East Campus vice president. "We would like time to help them do it right.' "

The Graduate Student Council is also mobilizing in response to the proposal that would house undergraduates at Ashdown House, a west campus dormitory. The GSC distributed a survey on the housing needs of graduate students, especially those living on campus, according to GSC President Roger G. Kermode G. The surveys will be collected into a formal report this weekend, Kermode said.

Undergrads need time to organize

"The students have been given very little time to prepare any proposals, get together a thoughtful, cogent statement, or anything like that relative to the [administration's] Strategic Housing Committee," Lakshminarayan said.

The Strategic Housing Planning Committee, formed last summer, is in the midst of a continuing review of MIT's options for student housing. Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith has asked the committee to present a summary of its findings on Senior House by Nov. 30.

"We are not stalling for inane reasons," Lakshminarayan said, noting that this time of the term is "crunch time." She continued, "We don't want to jeopardize any type of improvements to the undergraduate dorms, but we need to be given an equal chance."

The SHEC Action Committee is circulating a petition to residents of the two dormitories, Rickhus said. The petition asks for more student representation in future decisions and more time - until the end of January - for students to put together a presentation supporting Senior House and East Campus as undergraduate dormitories, she said.

"Our proposal would give strong, solid reasons why MIT would benefit in the long term for preserving the undergrad status of East Campus and Senior House," Lakshminarayan said.

The SHEC Action Committee will also try to gain the support of the faculty in asking for the extra planning time, Rickhus said.

Given the time extension, Richkus said the SHEC Action Committee could then distribute a survey to East Campus residents and solicit alumni donations that could be used toward renovation.

Clearer statement of goals needed

Both students and administrators feel that there should be more communication between the parties involved. In addition to ensuring that they are heard, students feel that they need a clearer statement from the administration about the need for these renovations.

"Art Smith was very generous with his time," Lakshminarayan said. "He met with us and thought that our ideas for having a student observer on the Student Housing Committee were close to what he would suggest."

Even so, "we would like to have access to the information that the Strategic Housing Committee has been gathering so we can couch our proposal in their terms," Lakshminarayan said. Students do not know the relative weight with which MIT is considering issues such as overcrowded dormitories, a cohesive student body, finance, and student satisfaction, Lakshminarayan said.

"Students need to be more pro-active to be heard," Kermode said. "I think the administration is now aware that they will need to have some sort of student input to keep the peace."

Also, "it would be prudent [for the administration] to spend more time getting student input" about how things should be done, Kermode said.

"If MIT is only looking at the profit/loss statement, then I am very disappointed and saddened," Lakshminarayan said.