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Grad Dorm Construction to Proceed as Planned

The Cambridge Planning Board has allowed MIT to proceed with the design development phase in its construction of the new graduate dormitory at the intersection of Sidney and Pacific streets. The decision came at the Board hearing with MIT on December 12 and was made with regards to the construction schedule MIT has presented to the Board.

“I think the integration of the dorm into the residential area has come a long way” since the original presentation of by MIT of its plans in September, said Liza Paden, secretary of the Board.

At the September meeting the Board had granted MIT an Interim Planning Overlay Permit, necessary for all buildings greater than 50,000 square feet in Cambridge. However, although it issued the IPOP, it was still investigating several outstanding design disagreements and requested MIT come back to the Board with revisions. Those disagreements involved issues ranging from the opacity of the glass looking into the courtyard and the appearance of the entryway to the location and number of parking spots.

While some of these issues have been resolved, others are still outstanding, and the Planning Board will continue to supervise MIT’s construction, Paden said. Such an arrangement is not unusual, Paden said, and has been made in cases such as that of Cambridge Research Park.

The graduate dorm is expected to be open for occupancy by August 2002 and will house 600-750 students.

RU-486 Available in Massachusetts

After approval by the Food and Drug Administration in September, Mifepristone, formerly known as RU-486 or “the abortion pill,” is available in Massachusetts. The Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts began offering the drug at its clinics on Jan. 1.

MIT Medical covers surgical abortions as part of its student insurance coverage. When asked whether the insurance would also cover the new medical procedure, officials at MIT Medical refused to give a definite answer without an appointment.

As abortions are not performed at MIT Medical, students seeking abortions are sent to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Boston. According to the clinic, MIT does not cover medical abortions, and it is in company with other major health care providers -- such as Tufts Health Care and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care -- in that policy.

It is still uncertain whether MIT will change its insurance coverage to include a mifepristone abortion now that Massachusetts offers the drug. Ilana M. Goldhaber-Gordon G, a member of MIT Pro-Choice, said that “unless there’s a huge price discrepancy, MIT women should be able to choose whatever method is more comfortable to them.” Goldhaber-Gordon also said that she has “very impressed” with MIT’s OB/GYN services on the whole.

“Psychologically, [the medical abortion] is closer to a miscarriage than a surgery is,” said Naomi I. Eckmann ’02, also a member of Pro-Choice.

Catherine M. B. Santini G, a member of MIT Pro-Life, said that “in terms of RU-486 I’m pretty disappointed it’s available here in Massachusetts. It hasn’t been shown to be a safe alternative.”

“Unfortunately there’s so much policy behind the pill that it doesn’t address the medical complications behind it,” Santini said, citing uncontrollable bleeding as one side effect that has killed some women.

As for insurance companies that cover abortion, “I think that it’s really sad that they spend their money trying to destroy human life rather than to save human life,” Santini said.

Mifepristone, which has the brand name Mifeprex in the United States, terminates pregnancy by blocking progesterone, a hormone essential to maintaining pregnancy. According to information at , mifepristone is a safe option for abortion for women in the early weeks of pregnancy.