Random Hall Deserves Institute's Attention
A blocked chimney is only one of many problems that Random Hall has experienced over the past several years. Unlike previous problems, however, the recent fire and the consequent evacuation have finally brought attention to the slipshod repairs and lack of attention paid to Random by the MIT administration.
Institute officials have ignored the problems of Random Hall for too long. Random Hall's chimney may or may not have been deliberately blocked, but it seems clear that if the dormitory was kept in better condition to begin with, such minor incidents would have less dire consequences. In addition to the evacuation last weekend, sewer drain blockages have caused water and sewage to flood the first floor, bringing attention to Random's old, worn out plumbing. Simple maintenance -- such as chimney cleaning or more regular plumbing maintenance -- may have ameliorated these problems, or averted them altogether.
With less than 100 residents, Random has less clout and influence than the other dormitories. This clout is further reduced when plans for closing the dormitory in the not-too-distant future are considered. The small size of Random has allowed MIT to treat Random residents as second-class citizens, subject to worse conditions than residents of other dormitories. If any one of Random's problems had plagued these other houses, repairs or renovations would been more quickly forthcoming. It is a travesty that it takes a sewage blockage and a complete evacuation to get the administration's attention.
Random's status as a temporary, off-campus dormitory has kept the dorm teetering on the brink of failing city building standards. Although MIT officials have suggested that Random may close within ten years, they have given no exact date. Presumably officials do not want to invest money in a massive renovation of a temporary dormitory. At the same time, neither has the Institute revealed any plans for a permanent replacement for the dormitory. Instead, housing officials have provided only temporary fixes to the hall's chronic problems.
Housing officials have urged Random residents to report problems rather than tolerating conditions as they had before. Although this is a step in the right direction, this move is by no means a sufficient response to Random's difficulties.
As long as Random is one of MIT's dormitories, it should be held to the same standards of livability. If the dorm is to be closed, MIT needs to present a public plan as to how Random will be maintained until then, and where its residents will move when the change is made. The only reasonable solution now is for the housing officials to spend as much money as needed to complete repairs and maintain better living conditions. Until Random is closed as an dormitory, its residents deserve the same standards of livability as other dorm residents currently enjoy.