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SHPC Report Prompts Action Committee and GSC Responses

Sharon N. Young Pong-- The Tech
This housing construction at University Park in Cambridge is located at the corner of Brookline Street and Franklin Street. This is near the proposed site for a new graduate dormitory.

By Angela Liao
Staff Reporter

Residents of Ashdown House and Senior House and members of the Graduate Student Council have been discussing the recommendations made in the Strategic Housing Planning Committee report that was released on Jan. 9.

The report proposed that the Institute convert Ashdown into an undergraduate dormitory while building a new graduate dormitory at the corner of Sidney and Pacific streets at University Park in Cambridge.

Last Thursday, the GSC began surveying Ashdown residents. "The residents have surveys in hand and we have planned for a tabulation party tonight," said Joseph J. Bambenek G, chair of the GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee, yesterday.

Though the coordinators hoped to collect the surveys by today, "the GSC may consider extending the deadline for these surveys in order to get more response," Bambenek said.

On the other side of campus, the Senior House-East Campus Action Committee held an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the proposed housing changes. The meeting resulted in a position paper, released late yesterday, which stated their views on the SHPC report.

The planning of Senior House renovations "has been thought-provoking, self-revealing, and time consuming," according to the position paper.

The statement also said that Senior House residents "believe that Senior House should remain an undergraduate dormitory" since "no clear alternative vision exists" at the present time. Residents also feel strongly that the renovation process "should embody cooperation, communication, and respect between MIT and the residents of Senior House."

GSC concerned with safety

Both Bambenek and Ashdown Chair Thomas H. Burbine G are concerned about the safety issues involved in moving the graduate students to the site of the proposed new dormitory.

"According to the Cambridge crime statistics, the neighborhood of the proposed dormitory site ranks second out of the 13 Cambridge neighborhoods in street robbery and drug arrests," Bambenek said.

"The experience of residents showed that people don't feel safe commuting the half-mile walk to campus," Burbine said. "This is especially dangerous for graduate students who often leave work at 3, 4, or 5 a.m." he added.

The residents of Ashdown like the location and the atmosphere of their house, Burbine said. "Ashdown is conveniently located near the center of campus; this means easy commute to lab and offices," he said. "Ashdown has the strongest social community and it is cheaper than most graduate dorms," he added.

Dialogue sought

Both the GSC and Ashdown residents have written letters to the administration to discuss the proposed changes, Bambenek said. They look forward to an ongoing discussion between graduate students and the administration, he said.

"I have received a large number of letters and electronic messages from students, faculty, staff and alumni," said President Charles M. Vest. "Most, especially those from students, have been very thoughtful."

"Unfortunately, the current discussions resulted in so much mail that I have not been able to respond directly and personally to all of it," Vest said. Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. "Smith and I will be in touch soon with all who have requested meetings with a proposed framework of issues and format for discussion," he said.

The GSC has not taken an explicit stand on what it thinks should happen to east-side dormitories.

"We all agree that Senior House should be renovated and that general undergraduate crowding appears to be an issue that should be dealt with," Bambenek said. However, "it seems that [graduate students] are forced to bear the burden."

Meanwhile, the GSC is looking to investigate alternative plans. "In order to do so responsibly, we need to know more facts that the SHPC used to develop their proposal," Bambenek said.