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SHPC Editorial Ignores Graduate Students

As a graduate student, I was sorely disappointed with your editorial on the Strategic Housing Planning Committee report ["Flawed Process Overshadows Result," Jan. 11]. From a graduate student point of view, the report's recommendations are the worst they could possibly be.

When you called the report conclusions "politically shrewd," was this because they minimized noise by favoring undergraduates whose hacks and protest tactics were much more visible than the quieter avenues pursued by grad students? When you mentioned "thoughtful consideration ... of student views," did you consider the petition with 203 Ashdown House residents' signatures, letters to the editor, meetings, an elaborate multi-floor dinner for administrators, and other expressions of graduate student views which went completely ignored?

If adopted, those recommendations will result in the loss of one third of the single on-campus graduate housing within two years, which will not be replaced until the new dormitory is completed, which is bound to take longer than three years. There is no provision whatsoever made in the interim, meaning that beginning this fall, a large number of new graduate students, many of whom are from foreign countries, will be left to forage for housing on the Cambridge market.

But the loss to the graduate community goes well beyond a reduced bed count. Ashdown is by far the most social of the grad dorms, owing largely to its unique living arrangement and location. It has the only doubles and triples, and the only floor kitchens (outside of Green Hall). We have an active group of officers who, together with our housemasters, organize all kinds of floor dinners, music recitals, parties and trips. And our weekly coffee hour draws students from all over the campus, largely because of the location. Because of these aspects of Ashdown life, I believe it is no coincidence that we make up a very disproportionately large part of the Graduate Student Council, and the loss of Ashdown House will permanently affect the graduate community as a whole.

It would not be constructive to flame without proposing some alternate solutions. The one that immediately comes to mind would be to simply construct a new undergraduate dorm, renovate Senior House during summers, and if need be, house some undergraduates in Ashdown during the renovations. If for whatever bizarre and obscure political reasons Ashdown must become undergraduate, and Senior House must remain undergraduate, then at the very least wait until the new dormitory is complete before moving us out of Ashdown.

As a former MIT undergraduate, I am asked every year to donate to the Alumni Fund. And for the last three years, I have gladly complied by parting with one percent of my income (including summer jobs). I felt good about my education here, and about the respect given to student opinion time and time again, and feeling respected as such, I am more than happy to participate in the betterment of MIT in whatever way I can.

If the SHPC recommendations are followed, the result will be very damaging to graduate life here at MIT. But more than the result, the process by which these recommendations were made leaves me sadly disillusioned with this place, whose responsiveness to student needs and concerns I had so highly valued.

Adam C. Powell G