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MIT Solicits Student Ideas on New Dorm

By Jennifer Chung
associate news editor

MIT held an open forum to discuss the new undergraduate dormitory scheduled to open in fall 2001 in 10-250 Thursday.

Following a presentation by facilitator and planning consultant Richard Dober of Dober, Lidsky, Craig, and Associates, the forum turned into a question-and-answer sessions. Audience members were given the opportunity to give feedback and ask questions to members of the administration.

The new undergraduate dormitory will be "the example of campus housing at the beginning of the 21st century,"Dober said.

New dormitory inspired by report

Some of the inspiration for the project came from the recent report released by the Task Force on Student Life and Learning.

"The new housing will be a three-dimensional representation of all that effort,"said Dober. He saw the new dormitory as being "housing not just for students, but for other people; housing for a community," he said, citing the report.

Many issues need to be decided for the dormitory, such as the size of the rooms, whether there should be social space, the format of bathrooms, and natural house divisions.

Tentatively, the new dormitory will house 300350 undergraduates, as well as a housemaster and associate housemasters, faculty house fellows, graduate resident tutors, a house secretary and manager, and outside guests, such as visiting scientists or artists in residence.

Dober said that the current dormitories on west campus provide "many styles, many forms of inspiration."

Four sites have been identified for potential dormitories in the future, although the first dormitory will be located on Vassar Street on the west side of campus.

Current plans for student housing include the current renovations in BakerHouse, expansion of the playing fields located across from the west campus dormitories, and the new dormitory. The other three dormitory sites are also located along Vassar Street.

Long-term planning includes significant renovation along Vassar Street as well as an MBTA subway stop, which will not be completed until 2020 at the earliest.

Tight schedule necessary for goals

Because the deadline for the completion of the dormitory is August 2001, there is a tight schedule for the project. From now until January, public forums and smaller planning sessions will be held to determine what traits the new dormitory will have.

The design and construction cycle will begin in January of next year. The architect, a smaller "founding committee," and key members of the administration will develop the final details for the dormitory.

Audience members raise concerns

During the question and answer period, many audience members raised concerns about crowding as well as the speed at which the dormitory was being created.

Other students questioned the prudence of choosing the particular site for the dormitory. Not only is the site the farthest away of the four sites, but audience members had concerns about the safety of the location.

Dober explained that the site was the most available site to meet the schedule.

Several audience members asked questions related to the decision to house freshmen on campus.

"No one's talking about this being a freshman dorm,"said Margaret R. Bates, dean for student life. "Ihonestly believe, and certainly promise that [we will] not phase out ILGs."

"People who are forced to live somewhere are not happy people," Dober.

UAcommittee chairs announced

At the forum, the new committee chairs for the Undergraduate AssociationCommittee on Housing and Orientation were announced. They new chairs are Matthew L. McGann '00, a resident ofBakerHouse, and Jennifer C. Berk '01, who lives at the Women's IndependentLiving Group.

McGann and Berk both worked extensively on Orientation this year; McGann was one of three main coordinators of Orientation and Berk was a member of the Orientation committee.

Both are interested in speaking with students about the new dormitory, as well as other issues related to housing and orientation, according to McGann. The committee is looking for interested students to join the committee.

"I'm confident that they will do an excellent job and that their committee will emerge as the student voice in housing and orientation affairs,"said Ryan K. Pierce '99, one of two outgoing committee chairs.