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Student Center Express: A Modest Proposal Might Be the Ideal Solution to Student Time Pressures

Naveen Sunkavally

Efficiency is a trademark virtue of the MIT student. Every day one can observe a multitude of students bustling down the Infinite Corridor trying to get from one place to another without wasting any time. We've all heard stories of students negotiating strenuous course loads with UROPs and other extracurricular activities all within the confines of a 24-hour day. And within MIT's laboratories, scientists and research students are striving constantly to improve machines to make them faster and perform more tasks.

So it is a great shock to discover that students at MIT, the pinnacle of scientific reason and efficiency, must submit to such technological marvels as the slow, decrepit elevators in the Student Center. Every day these elevators cause massive inefficiency by sucking up precious seconds from a student's day and contributing to the decline in physical fitness among MIT students.

The biggest and most infuriating problem with the elevators is that lazy students and Aramark workers take the elevator from the second to third floor, or the third to the fourth floor, or any permutation of floors not including the trip from the first to the fifth floor or the fifth to the first. In addition, aside from the general sluggishness of the elevators, it seems that the door-close buttons on the control panels never work.

So what can be done to increase efficiency? I propose that someone from Physical Plant remove the second through the fourth floor buttons on the control panels of at least one of the Student Center elevators. First, students riding the elevators would be spared the nuisance of other students riding the elevators for petty trips. Second, the change would promote physical fitness among MIT students.

In the spirit of scientific reason, I conducted time trials to verify that it is always faster for students to take the stairs rather than to take today's Student Center elevators. To those who doubt I actually performed this experiment, I can provide the names of some befuddled fifth-floor-lounge residents who observed a crazed lunatic joy-riding in the elevators for fifteen minutes last Sunday.

I obtained 30.7 seconds as a rough average of the time necessary to go from the first to the fifth floor on the elevator. This estimate does not include the time a student typically waits for an elevator. After averaging the time necessary to wait for an elevator into the the original estimate, I came up with 46.8 seconds as the average total travel time from the first to the fifth floor.

Although I am less physically fit than about 90 percent of MIT students, I scaled the four flights of stairs between the first and fifth floors in a mere 18.96 seconds. The trip down took a mere 18.73 seconds. I estimate that the average MIT student can take the stairs in about 16 seconds.

Assuming that the average MIT student rides the Student Center elevator up and down three times a day, taking the stairs results in a savings of 184.8 seconds a day, or 1293 seconds a week. Furthermore, assuming the average MIT student goes away for Independent Activities Period and the summer, taking the stairs then amounts to a savings of 41,395 seconds a school year.

11.5 hours more a school year for doing those last minute problem sets! 11.5 hours more for playing the sycophant to your professor! 11.5 hours more of MIT student bliss!

In my ideal universe, no fully-abled students would be allowed to take the elevators unless they were handling freight; but eliminating the option of taking the elevator from the first to the fifth floor would probably cause havoc on campus. In my Five Year Plan of elevator reformation, I would eventually eliminate the elevator altogether, requiring students to take the stairs for all floors.

Any proposal must also have a "plan of attack." Unlike most resolutions proposed by our nations' legislators, my proposal is completely feasible. I observed that the screws in the control panels of the elevators can be removed with a standard screwdriver or X-Acto knife. Indeed, the control panels were replaced in a matter of days just last week.

In sum, I believe that re-replacing the control panels to have only the first and fifth floor buttons would greatly increase the efficiency of the average MITstudent. In addition, physical fitness confers many benefits, including a longer average life span. More importantly, MIT would no longer have to live with the travesty of technological progress that these elevators represent.