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Housing Advisory Committee Forms To Look At Mit's Long-Range Needs

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Staff Reporter

A new housing advisory group is forming to investigate the long-term status of housing at MITand formulate plans for a new graduate dormitory.

The group, which will be composed of 15 to 20 members, will be responsible for updating the Institute's aging housing plan, which was created in the 1960s, said Associate Director of Planning Robert K. Kaynor.

In addition, the group will be "looking specifically at graduate houses," Kaynor said. "With the Senior House project done, it's time to focus on graduate housing."

Some members of the housing group will be responsible for planning a new graduate dormitory for a site at Sidney Street and Pacific Street near Central Square, said Associate Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Margaret A. Jablonski. The team will plan the development of the dormitory and will solicit bids for construction, she said.

Current construction schedules indicate that construction on the dormitory should begin in spring of 1998 with occupancy planned for 1999.

The new dormitory will hold up to 1,200 beds in multiple buildings when construction is completed, Jablonski said. The current plan calls for the first building at the site to have about 300 beds.

Jablonski said that the graduate housing group will also work to create a "model plan" for future graduate dormitories on campus. "We're looking 10 to 15 years out," she said.

The group will also be working with Ashdown House residents to outline the facilities that should be available in the new dormitory, Jablonski said.

"I think it's crucial that graduate students have some say in the process or are intimately involved in the planning process," said Graduate Student Council President Constantine A. Morfopoulos G.

Group addresses long-term needs

The remaining members of the housing group will be charged with creating a housing plan for the entire campus that will serve as a long-range plan for all housing at MIT, Kaynor said.

The last full-scale review of housing on MIT's campus was undertaken in 1950s by the Committee on Student Housing, Kaynor said.

The group will work on incorporating renovations to current dormitories into the new long-range plan, Kaynor said. In addition, the group will be responsible for finding space for additional dormitories.

The Institute is working to fulfill its pledge to providing housing to half of all graduate students and all undergraduates, Kaynor said. While it has met the latter goal, it currently houses only 30 percent of graduate students.

"The idea to house more graduate students on campus in addition to the existing facilities is good," Morfopoulos said. "Current graduate student housing, while adequate, could certainly be improved. There is a demand to have more students housed on campus."

Committee not SHPC again

Jablonski said that the group would not be a retread of the now-defunct Strategic Housing Policy Committee formed in 1994.

The committee, which did not involve any students, proposed moving undergraduates from East Campus and Senior House to Ashdown House and moving all graduate students to east campus dormitories.

"Everyone will be able to have input" in the new proposals, Jablonski said.The group has "no preconceived notions about changing anything," she added.

"Dean [for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H.] Williams has shown a willingness to solicit broad student opinion. That's encouraging, and certainly I hope when this takes off that we'll be contacted and we'll select someone," Morfopoulos said.

Two or three students will be invited to join the housing group, Jablonski said. In addition, students will be invited to participate in helping the group understand present advantages and disadvantages in the dormitory system.

In addition, there are no plans to change east campus dormitories into graduate housing, Jablonski said. "If anything, they would become academic facilities" long in the future, she said.

The group will not be investigation whether the structure of housing should be changed at MIT. The group is focusing on "bricks and mortar," Jablonski added.

Committee to work with others

The housing group try to integrate its efforts with those being made by other groups. It will work closely with re-engineering efforts and other groups that are looking at housing, Jablonski said.

In the short term, the group will work with the dining review working group and the housing and residential life re-engineering team as those groups begin to wrap up their work.

In the long term, the group will coordinate closely with the task force on student life and learning, which is currently evaluating the total undergraduate experience at MIT, she said. "In the ideal world, we would have the task force report first," Jablonski said.

"We want to be sure that we don't jump the gun on anything that the task force is going to work on,"Kaynor said. "We don't want to put them in the awkward place of having to ask them to change something."

The group currently plans to release an interim housing plan report in late 1997, with a final report coinciding with the task force's final report in late 1998.