The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 84.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Renovation Schedule Ignored Concerns

A little over a year ago, Senior House was spared from conversion into graduate housing - and from the verdict of a secret decision-making process aimed at reducing student input as well. In the end, it was decided that the dormitory would continue to house undergraduates, but that it would undergo renovations that would overhaul its interior. While significant student input about the renovations was received over the past year, Senior House's recent renovations have been carried out in a way that demonstrates a continued lack of concern for keeping promises to students and for valuing student input.

The bulk of these renovations, aimed at improving overall living conditions, were to be completed this summer. The renovations began with a near-optimal level of student and administration interaction. Residents met with the contractor and administrators, providing input on the future appearance and voicing concerns about renovation deadlines. This was in keeping with both the high words of the Report of the Strategic Housing Planning Committee, which promised to "maximize student input from this point forward," and the demands of residents and their leaders.

The responsiveness of the administration and contractor to student concerns has quickly degraded. During planning stages, one of the residents' major demands was to ensure that Senior House would be presentable by Residence and Orientation Week. While Senior House was open last R/O Week, the dormitory will not be available as temporary housing for this year's R/O. Even worse, parts of the building may even be closed for tours and other dormitory R/O events.

These renovations went ahead with the understanding that the changes would benefit everyone in the end. By limiting dormitory R/O events, this new renovation schedule will undoubtedly result in a dismal rush for Senior House. And what guarantee do residents have that construction will not continue well into the next school year? This hardly appears to be in the best interests of the residents.

Nor has that particular instance of disrespect for student concerns been an isolated occurrence. During the end of the semester, heavy construction work was undertaken in the morning, as early as 7:30 a.m., plaguing residents catching precious sleep before finals. The reason offered for the inopportune work schedule? President Charles M. Vest was out of town, and thus wouldn't be inconvenienced by electrical work. Again, students were not involved or even considered in the decision, much less informed of it in advance.

Yet again, student concerns have fallen on deaf years. Keeping students in the dark on scheduling changes and ignoring student input, the administration and the contractor have duplicated the closed process epitomized by the infamous SHPC. Senior House was supposed to be a test case for student involvement, the basis for rebuilding the trust shattered by the administration nearly two years ago. It now appears that the administrators involved in the renovations have blindsided students yet again. The brass has heard this complaint before in contexts from dean selection to food service. Will they ever learn? With this latest transgression, the answer seems to be "no."