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CLC Denies Amended Dormitory Lodging Licenses

By Mike Hall


In a surprise decision, the Cambridge License Commission denied five Institute applications for amended lodging house licenses after discovering that the housing office had misstated the number of residents and rooms in MIT dormitories.

On July 27, the Commission denied applications to change occupancy figures at Ashdown House, Bexley Hall, Edgerton House, MacGregor House, and Senior House.

The Commission also withdrew its approval for an application by the Women’s Independent Living Group, which had received approval two nights earlier to increase its maximum number of lodgers from 37 to 52.

At the Commission’s general hearing yesterday evening, Zeta Psi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Alpha Delta Phi, and pika had their respective applications for occupancy increases taken under advisement. Decisions on these increases will not be ruled on until the August 17 decision hearing.

Residents will not be evicted from the five dormitories whose applications were denied, according to Commission Executive Officer Richard V. Scali. “[The Commission is] not going to kick anyone out,” Scali said. Additionally, the ruling does not affect MIT’s current lodging house licenses, which expire in May 2001.

Tech staffer uncovers discrepancy

The Commission’s denials resulted from MacGregor House’s application, which listed MacGregor as having all singles and no lounge doubles. After Tech reporter Jonathan Sheffi ’03 called Scali to ask about MIT’s omission of lounge doubles in its application, Scali raised his concerns at the July 27 decision hearing. At the hearing, Sheffi disclosed to the Commission that MIT uses the MacGregor lounges as doubles to house students. Sheffi said that the Commission expressed concern about MIT’s incorrect numbers and the fire safety of crowded lounges in dormitories.

According to Sheffi, Commission chairman Benjamin C. Barnes said, “I don’t like it when people come in here half-baked.”

Karen A. Nilsson, associate director of operations for housing, authored the MacGregor application as well as the applications for the other dormitories. After the Commission questioned Nilsson’s original listing of 324 rooms and 326 lodgers, Nilsson accidentally assumed that MacGregor only housed students in singles and increased the listed number of rooms to 326.

Further research by The Tech into the number of residents at MacGregor showed that Nilsson’s application also listed only the number of students while omitting graduate resident tutors, the housemaster, the assistant housemaster, and their families. Scali stated that all residents must be counted in the new application.

“We’ve always been under the understanding that the Commission wanted standard occupancy figures,” said Sarah E. Gallop, co-director of the Office of Government and Community Relations. “That was the understanding for over twenty years.”

Following the denials, Gallop and Nilsson met with Barnes and Scali last Thursday to discuss a solution. The Commission requested that MIT hire a specialist recommended by the city to inspect Institute residences and submit amended applications with standard occupancy, maximum occupancy, and number of rooms.

According to Gallop, MIT bases its current maximums for crowding on an in-house analysis of student safety, which considered issues like sanitary facilities and fire safety. Gallop said that she believes current crowding maximums determined by MIT will be below the independently determined maximums.

Suspensions bring about changes

For years, MIT had left occupancy and room numbers unchanged with no objection from the Commission, even as construction and crowding caused yearly fluctuations in capacity and number of rooms.

However, following its suspensions of Kappa Sigma and Alpha Tau Omega in March, the Commission became aware of problems with MIT’s lodging house licenses.

MIT officials noticed a new trend in the Commission’s questioning: “Whenever we went before the Commission recently, [the Commission] asked the same question: ‘How many people are in your house?’” Gallop said.

It was then that MIT realized that the Commission kept a different set of numbers from the Inspectional Services Department, with which Cambridge fraternities had kept their residences numbers up to date, said Neal H. Dorow, assistant dean of residence and student programs. “We weren’t aware until very recently that the CLC has a different set of numbers.”

Nilsson began filing for amendments to dormitory licenses while the Cambridge FSILGs performed their own recounts. Of dormitories, Bexley received the greatest adjustment -- from 98 to 136 rooms -- after Nilsson discovered that the former number was the number of suites, not the number of residential rooms. WILG’s fifteen-resident increase was the largest requested among summer FSILG applicants, with pika’s requested change from 18 residents to 32 residents in second place.

Dana Levine contributed to the reporting of this story.