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Simmons Will Open On Schedule in 2002

Construction To Continue after Dorm Opens

By Kevin R. Lang

NEWS EDITOR

Simmons Hall construction is nearly back on schedule, and the new dorm will open its doors to new residents in the fall of 2002 although construction will continue after students arrive.

“Simmons is a go.” Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict said after meeting with Executive Vice President John R. Curry on Wednesday morning to discuss the progress of construction.

Construction of the dormitory is still about a week behind the original schedule, according to Jonathan Himmel, project director of Simmons Hall construction. “We are working very hard to bring it in on time -- there is no rest for the people working on this project.”

Benedict credited the unusually warm fall with allowing the contractor to complete final concrete work on the upper floors and roof much faster than had been anticipated. “They made up a lot of work on the concrete,” Benedict said.

“The good weather had a lot to do with not falling further behind schedule,” said Himmel.

Residents to live with construction

Although Simmons will open its doors to students next fall, only the first of two construction phases will be complete.

“In [the first] phase, floors two through 10 as well as the entrance will be ready for occupancy,” Himmel said. According to Himmel, the next phase is scheduled for completion by next December, which will include the occupancy of the first floor and basement.

“I think [ongoing construction] is going to be a reality,” Associate Professor of History and future Simmons Hall Housemaster Anne E. McCants said.

Similar ongoing construction has taken place since the new graduate dorm at 224 Albany Street, better known as “The Warehouse,” opened to residents earlier this year.

“Sometimes it’s challenging to live with the ongoing construction, but I think it’s worth it to get the finished product,” said Lori Lerman, housemaster of 224 Albany Street.

Dilan Seneviratne G, president of the Graduate Student Council, said that construction at the Warehouse was “fairly troublesome” especially because the construction delays were discovered late in the process.

Grads keep 70 Pacific Street

If MIT had determined that Simmons could not open in time for the fall semester, undergraduates would most likely have been housed in the new graduate dormitory at 70 Pacific Street and displaced many graduate students from campus housing. The Graduate Student Council was concerned about the potential lost revenue for the graduate reserve that would have resulted from losing 70 Pacific Street housing fees for a semester.

“The fact that Simmons is now on schedule is good news for everyone,” Seneviratne said. “We hope this announcement guarantees there will be no displacing of graduate students” from the graduate dormitory under construction at Sydney and Pacific.

Salil Soman G, secretary of the Tang Hall Residents Association and co-chair of the Graduate Student Council housing and community affairs committee, said that the announcement was a “sigh of relief: for graduate students. “The whole situation had the administration putting grad students at a disadvantage,” Soman said. “You always keep your fingers crossed and hope that this is really what’s going to happen.”

Many optimistic about new dorm

McCants, who will serve as Simmons housemaster next year, said she was “thrilled, of course.” “It’s just terrific,” she said. “All I can figure is we have the late summer here to thank for this; we got lucky.”

Founder’s Group member Jeffrey C. Roberts ’02 said that he had heard some good news in the weeks leading up to the decision, and he “hadn’t been too concerned about it.” However, he added that he was “definitely relieved” to hear that Simmons would open on time.

Roberts said that he was confident the project team would successfully meet the completion schedule, but he recognized that “it is a challenging project and you never know what’s going to happen.”

Simmons planning gearing up

Benedict is said that the real planning for student life issues are yet to begin. “We’re all excited, and now the real work begins,” he said. “We have to start kicking those [plans] into high gear.”

McCants said that MIT needed to go “full-speed ahead on getting some students who are committed to living there.” She will be speaking with Benedict, Associate Dean For Student Life Programs Barbara A. Baker, and Undergraduate Residential Services Manager Denise A. Vallay next week regarding the logistics of getting upperclassmen students to move to Simmons.

However, planning is likely to be on hold until Independent Activities Period begins since the term is ending shortly. “It can’t move now, before the end of term,” McCants said.

Roberts, who no longer needs to plan for a “Sponge-in-Exile” group of future Simmons residents living in temporary housing, said that he will host one final “Sponge Committee” meeting before the end of term on December 15. Key issues for the Founder’s Group include a number of administrative topics, such as house governance, selection of graduate resident tutors, visiting scholars, and associate housemasters, as well as issues such as rooming, publicity, and dining. “Most of that work is going to start over IAP,” Roberts said. He acknowledged that planning had been delayed by the uncertainty over Simmons’ opening date. “The decision has kind of held things back,” Roberts said. “We’ll hopefully get more people starting to sign up and see where we go from there.”

Contingency plans still developing

Although MIT has decided to go ahead with plans to house students in Simmons next fall, contingency planning is still proceeding in the event of emergency delays. “You always need to be prepared,” Benedict said. However, he said that the later phases of construction could not result in delays significant enough to push back the dorm’s opening. Rather, MIT would know far enough ahead “if there’s a big problem” to plan accordingly.

Roberts agreed that some contingency planning is still necessary, but not on the scale previously discussed in the event of an IAP opening. “We may have to still talk about some smaller contingencies,” Roberts said, such as a delay of a few days before students can move in.