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Debate Persists over New Graduate Dorm

By FrankDabek
aSsocIaTE nEws EdIToR

A new graduate dormitory is scheduled to open in two years at the intersection of Sidney and Pacific streets in Central Square. As the planning process nears its close, disagreements between involved parties have surfaced.

The current proposal calls for a five-story building with parking as allowed by Cambridge zoning regulations, said Associate Planning Officer Jennifer L. Marshall. The new dormitory will house approximately 600 single graduate students, Marshall said.

A point of contention has arisen, however, over what style of housing the new dormitory will take on. "It would be a huge mistake to move towards dorm-style housing and it's clear that's what's happening," said Carsten D. Hohnke G, chairman of the Graduate Student Council housing and community affairs committee.

Hohnke said that the "GSC has a certain set of priorities" for the new dormitory based on data gained from surveys, and focus groups conducted by outside firms. This data reveals that graduate students are looking for "creative apartment-style living," he said.

"The building should be creative but the unit is an apartment," Hohnke said. According to the surveys, graduate students are interested in two-bedroom apartments with kitchens, Hohnke said. In addition, data reveals that graduate students do not place emphasis on having a dining hall or housemaster facilities, he said.

Client team criticized by graduate students

A client team has been organized to make decisions on the structure of the dormitory. "A group of graduate students, faculty and staff have met over the summer, and will continue to meet into the fall, to plan the spaces proposed for the building," Marshall said.

Hohnke, who serves on the client team, expressed his disappointment in the team. "The impression was given at the time [the team was formed] that we were doing this because we would make decisions," he said. Hohnke said that he later learned that the client team would not have the authority to make decisions but would only submit a report. "We're very disappointed," he said.

Vernon M. Ingram, chairman of the client team and professor of biology, supported the statement that the team has no final authority. "The client team does not make decisions, it only makes recommendations," he said.

Hohnke also criticized the makeup of the group. "The emphasis is on an Ashdown House style and housemaster facilities," he said. This style of housing is contrary to what the GSC had found students desired through its surveys.

However, "plenty of different people expressed opinions" and defended the diversity of the team, Ingram said. The group is "looking for a consensus in the framework of what graduate students on campus already have," he said. "I am optimistic that something good will come of this."

Students express dissatisfaction

"The official graduate student representative has no voice the administration is steamrolling this issue," Hohnke said. The surveys cited by GSC were "not being addressed,"he said.

"There should be stronger representation of graduates and undergraduates in the Institute," said J. P. Mellor G.

The new dormitory will bring the Institute closer to its goal of housing 50 percent of graduate students. Currently only 30 percent of graduate students live in Institute housing.