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Ashdown Should Stay a Graduate Dormitory

The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to President Charles M. Vest:

As a recent alumnus and former resident of Ashdown House, I write to express my strong misgivings about any proposal which might eradicate the existing culture, community, and tradition of Ashdown House. I recognize the importance of providing sufficient accommodation for undergraduate students, but I believe that the administration must operate within the constraint of not sacrificing some of the best aspects of graduate housing.

I lived in Ashdown House throughout my seven years of graduate study at MIT, and I greatly enjoyed my stay there. I met many remarkable people from around the world and learned a lot through my friendships with them. Activities organized by the housemasters (such as musical brunches) provided excellent opportunities for cultural enrichment and social growth. The house fellows program enabled other residents and me to interact with faculty members outside labs and classrooms so that we could learn more about their many diverse interests and hobbies.

The house officers program at Ashdown is a great way to encourage residents to play an active role in keeping the dorm running smoothly. The very architecture of Ashdown - shared kitchens, the lobby which also serves as a lounge, the courtyard, for example - promotes social interaction. I doubt that all of these wonderful aspects of life at Ashdown House could be recreated in a new dorm: The nature of Edgerton Hall strongly supports my misgivings. Furthermore, Ashdown House's location is much safer, more convenient, and more pleasant than Central Square.

Graduate students generally spend most of their time in their labs and offices. In contrast, undergraduates tend to have more opportunities for social interaction with their classmates. Therefore, I believe it is especially important to maintain at least one graduate student dorm like Ashdown House so that grad students will have an opportunity to easily mingle beyond the limits of their labs. Without a dorm like Ashdown, the graduate program at MIT risks becoming strictly a high-tech vocational training school.

Please do your best to resolve any undergraduate housing needs without sacrificing the precious community which current exists at Ashdown House. I have very fond memories of my days there, and I would be deeply disappointed if future grad students at MIT were denied the same privilege to live in the Ashdown House community.

John S. Keen PhD '94