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McDermott Court Must Be Preserved

The Tech received a copy of this letter, addressed to Department of Facilities Communications Manager Ruth T. Davis.

The grassy circle of McDermott Court is one of the nicest areas on campus. During warm weather, dozens of students congregate there for lunch. It’s a popular spot for volleyball games, Ultimate, and canine frisbee. Surrounded on all sides by concrete and steel, the grassy area is one of the few pleasant spots remaining on the east side of campus, and is a vital center of social and sports activity for people who live and work in the area.

The area is important for the Institute, as well; it hosts pavilions during graduation and reunion, and is the site of the annual Vendor’s Fair. On Friday, I received an e-mail from you, announcing that the courtyard’s lawn would be stripped this Monday to make way for temporary structures to house temporary faculty offices. I object strongly to both this action and to your method of announcing it.

Green space at MIT, particularly on the east side of campus, is far too scarce to be destroyed senselessly. Pleasant spots on campus need to be preserved, even if other options are more expensive.

If destroying the court was an unavoidable consequence of campus improvement (as, arguably, the removal of the parkland near East Garage for Building 20 construction was), I wouldn’t be writing this. But the alternative solution to the lack of office space is so easy! Simply rent out office space in the Kendall Square area. Yes, it’s expensive, but so is a new building. Yes, office space is in high demand, but large amounts of new office space have been built in the last year, with even more under construction. Yes, Kendall Square is a bit far from Building 18 (whose professors, I infer, are to be moved), but Course XII, my department, has been split between Buildings 54 and E34 forever, so I have little sympathy.

If the offices must be built on campus, why can’t they be put on the plaza between Buildings 18 and 54, which is already bricked over, rather than in the grass? Or perhaps you could build in the parking area near E32-E34, offering incentives to those who give up their parking spots? Even better, why not wait until the Stata Center is completed in 2002, when you’ll have tons of extra space, before renovating Building 18?

Your actions as “Communications Manager” for Facilities have been unwise at best, Machiavellian at worst. Most of the people on campus received no warning that the area was to be destroyed; I suppose those of us who work in the Green Building must be grateful for your message, but with only a weekend’s warning, there’s little we can do about it now. You say you’ll publish an article about the destruction in next Wednesday’s Tech Talk. What good is that? The news will be printed plainly in shredded turf and ravaged dirt on the face of the Circle by then. You have apparently made no attempt to ask the community their opinion on the issue. You and your superiors are either deliberately preventing the MIT community from helping to make decisions about their living and working space, or you are neglecting your duty to keep the community informed.

I am sending this to The Tech, fully aware that The Tech is printed on Tuesday, while you’re sending in the bulldozers on Monday. Perhaps my message will be a hollow reminder of yet another incident of institutional short-sightedness and inconsideration. Or perhaps, if the earthmovers don’t arrive, it’ll demonstrate that the administration does listen to the people it serves. The choice is up to you and your superiors.

Jason C. Goodman G