The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 67.0°F | A Few Clouds

Institute Can Find Better Solution than Unsafe Location

The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Chairman of the Corporation Paul E. Gray '56 and President Charles M. Vest.

We, the undersigned, urge you to lead the Institute in finding a pragmatic and effective solution to the difficult housing problem, and to reject the recommendations of the Strategic Housing Planning Committee (SHPC). These ill-conceived recommendations are not in the best long-term interest of the Institute. The current solution does not adequately address the following points:

MIT should not relocate hundreds of students into an unsafe area of Cambridge. By moving students into this situation, MIT would be compromising their personal safety, and we find this unacceptable. This complex problem will not be solved by merely enhancing current shuttle services, as has been suggested. Frankly, we are also dismayed that administrators are moving us to a location where they themselves would not walk late at night, let alone take up residence.

The research, academics and teaching of hundreds of graduate students will suffer.

Recruitment of top-notch graduate students will suffer. MIT must think competitively, and there are several competitive schools with better housing, transportation and climate. Ashdown House is the only centrally-located coeducational graduate dormitory. In contrast, there are several such undergraduate dormitories. Undergraduate recruitment efforts will not benefit if Ashdown is converted to undergraduate housing, but graduate recruitment will certainly suffer. This sacrifice of graduates for undergraduates is unwise and unnecessary.

There is no adequate interim plan for housing graduate students. By prematurely closing Ashdown, as has been proposed, there will be no accommodations for the lost graduate space before the new dormitory is built. This situation will create chaos for 400 graduate students by forcing them to compete with each other in the tight and competitive housing market. Current off-campus housing resources at MIT are inadequate to alleviate this burden.

By rejecting the SHPC recommendations and searching for a more encompassing solution, the administration will vastly improve its image with graduate and undergraduate students. In the current situation, the mission of the SHPC was made known by a leak to The Tech. Since then, every interaction between the students and the administration has been initiated by the students, and information has been scanty at best. The secrecy surrounding this decision is simply reprehensible. Furthermore, the administration excluded distinguished faculty members and the input of the Faculty Committee on Student Affairs. Clearly, the current recommendations are based on the perceptions of a small and non-representative body of administrators. By rejecting these tactics, the MIT leadership can repair its ability to work effectively with other members of the community.

In short, the SHPC recommendations will place students in an unsafe location and will unnecessarily close the only centrally-located graduate dormitory. Consequently, it will damage the current and future graduate program at MIT. We believe that both the graduate and undergraduate populations find the current decision-making process unacceptable, and that hurried recommendations by unrepresentative and secretive committees are not how an institution makes wise decisions. We look forward to correcting this situation with the administration, so that we may find a solution that is acceptable to all parties involved.

We reiterate that pragmatic and effective solutions can be found to the housing and overcrowding problems that the Institute faces. We hope you will choose to find a better solution, and reject the current recommendations.

John-Paul Mattia G and 195 others