Preserve Walker, East CampusAt a recent open discussion in the Student Center, much attention was focused on proposed changes to student space on campus. The future of Walker Memorial was lost in this discussion because of the familiar refrain that renovations would be too large an undertaking for the Institute.
The venerable building has served MIT well as the home of campus activities for generations of students. It is a building that MIT should respect and maintain. Since the construction of the Student Center, however, the administration has focused on developing student life on west campus, which has allowed Walker to fall into a state of disrepair. The building’s services are chronically understaffed, which leads to lengthy lines during lunchtime and garbage bins that overflow, adding to the rodent problem in that area of campus. The balconies overlooking Morss Hall are closed off to the public indefinitely while awaiting much-needed repairs. Student groups residing in Walker must cope with the lack of air conditioning and proper ventilation. Workers in Pritchett, the only late-night dining option on the east side of campus, must deal with undesirable working conditions and a shortage of keys for the diner’s facilities.
The greatest problem Walker faces is its lack of a master plan. If Walker is to remain a part of this campus, it must receive some guidelines about what role it will play in the future. The Campus Activities Complex and its director, Phillip J. Walsh, could be well suited to manage Walker’s future development, but only if given full support from the Institute.
While Walker is no longer the center of campus life, it still serves a significant portion of the student body. The activities and patrons served by Walker deserve the same consideration given those served by the Student Center.
Another facilities trouble spot on east campus is East Campus itself. EC residents deserve to live in reasonable conditions, yet have not been given that opportunity in recent weeks. A rash of false fire alarms -- up to six in one day alone -- have interrupted students’ lives at all hours of the day. Students now assume that all alarms are mistakes, creating a potentially dangerous situation if one alarm out of the crowd turns out to be real.
Of course, false fire alarms are the tip of the iceberg with regard to EC living conditions. The tap water in the bathrooms runs brown, the trash chutes are consistently backed up, and a rat infestation continues unchecked.
Tolerable living conditions for students on the east side of campus should not be sacrificed. Repairs of facilities on the east side of campus are long overdue. The Institute should take immediate steps to improve these and other quality-of-life issues.