Graduate Student Housing Crunch
Amidst all of the furor as to the timing and implications of President Charles M. Vest's announcement to house all freshmen on campus, I have one simple question: Where will the Institute get the money and organizational time necessary to construct a new dormitory within three years? And if this money has been available, why are graduate students still waiting for adequate on-campus housing?
Graduate students at the Institute tend to be the silent majority. By the very nature of graduate studies, we tend to be very focused on issues that impact our narrow subfield and ignore the rest of the world. This tendency makes it very easy for our needs to be ignored, because we don't tend to speak up very often. And besides, we're older; we can take care of ourselves, right?
I agree that graduate students should expect to take on more responsibilities than they did as undergraduates. Many of us now have spouses and children; many have moved abroad for the first time. However, the housing market in the area around MIT is such that we are becoming overwhelmed with merely the task of finding a place to sleep at night.
When rent control was revoked, the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Cambridge and Somerville began to skyrocket. In most areas of the country, one expects to spend about one-third of one's monthly salary on rent. Around MIT, most people spend close to half, some as much as two-thirds of their salary, just to have somewhere to live. In order to find affordable housing, we are forced to live with strangers (with no support networks for conflict resolution), tolerate apartments that do not meet health or fire regulations, or commute for 45 minutes to an hour just to get to campus.
Now that a "crisis" has occurred with undergraduate housing, it appears that all plans for a graduate student dormitory have been shelved. What's worse is that 140 rooms in Tang Hall, one of the few remaining on-campus graduate residence options, have been (temporarily) taken away.
Graduate students are a large part of the MIT community. We contribute to the character of campus life through active participation in most student activities. We teach recitations, tutor undergraduates in the fields of our major, and some of us have chosen to live in the dormitories as resident tutors. We perhaps do not directly pay the bills, but we do the actual work involved in the research that has made MIT world-renown as a top-notch university.
For all of these reasons, I am greatly disappointed that the Institute continues to treat us like second-class citizens and ignores our very clear need in favor of a highly controversial policy of ambiguous necessity.
Erika D. Abbas G