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The ‘Dot’ Safe... For Now

When students gathered on McDermott Court early yesterday morning to protest construction on the grassy east campus area known as the “Dot,” they not only preserved a valuable piece of campus green space, but also scored a long-overdue victory in their fight to represent student interests to the administration.

The organizers of the protest, especially Geeta Dayal ’01, deserve the thanks of the entire student body for saving the Dot and reminding the administration that student voices must be heard in decisions that affect student life.

President Charles M. Vest also deserves commendation for wisely reconsidering the decision to replace the Dot with temporary faculty offices (TFOs). The Tech hopes that the decision to restrict TFO construction to the paved areas of McDermott Court endures for the entire duration of the temporary project. In addition, Vest’s personal appearance at the protest demonstrates the sort of openness and communication that should always exist between administrators and students.

However, Director of Facilities Victoria Sirianni exercised exceedingly poor judgment in electing to raze the Dot in the first place. The decision demonstrates, once again, an utter lack of long-term planning: those who remember Building 20 know MIT’s record with “temporary” buildings. More importantly, the move shows how little administrators understand the lives of the students they are charged with serving. Decisions like this one show the ever-present need for administrators to interact with the student body in some more meaningful, productive forum than Institute Committees and focus groups.

Student leaders are also to blame for making necessary herculean efforts such as yesterday’s protest -- several were aware of this decision long before students found out through widely distributed e-mail messages, and they should have taken the initiative to block construction, or at least to alert the student body. It’s important for our elected student leaders to take strong stands on controversial issues early on: when they act as junior administrators, contributing to campus closed-mouthedness, we’re all in trouble.

Admittedly, the location of Building 18 makes the Facilities Department’s job of finding adjacent space for chemistry faculty more difficult, but certainly a better solution could have been found if an intelligent planning process had been used, with enough time and preparation to consult the student body and then to collaboratively devise the best possible overall solution.