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Giving Something Back to Grads

Guest Column Christina Silcox

Chancellor Clay’s letter about the “opportunity” of the overcrowding situation in undergraduate dormitories gave us graduate students quite a few shocks. First, I suppose, was the idea that undergraduates having to live without study rooms in their dorms was enough reason to kick graduate students out of their own homes! Quickly following that shocker was the administration’s thought process that they could take away any number of graduate beds in Sidney and Pacific and the graduate body would still be thankful because they would still have more beds next year then they did this year. Well, perhaps we are ungrateful, but imagine your boss promised you a 20 percent raise starting with your next paycheck. However, when you opened the envelope on payday you discovered only a 15 percent raise. They gave five percent of it to the person in the desk next to you but that’s okay, right? You still got a raise, right? Wrong.

Then Chancellor Clay explained that this was actually the fair solution because if we looked at the situation “in context” we would realize that in twenty years MIT had not built any undergraduate dorms but had built three graduate dorms. Not mentioned, though, was the reason. Perhaps it was because there has been an ever-increasing demand for graduate housing and basically none for undergraduate housing?

What we believe the administration needs to understand is if they want to take away 140 beds, we want concessions in return. We want an iron-clad guarantee that in the future the size of the freshman class will be controlled to an extent that it can be housed in undergraduate residences. We want an extra housing allowance added to our stipend so we can live in “the high rents and limited supply [of the apartments] in Cambridge” that would be such a burden to the undergraduates. We want heavily subsidized or free off-campus parking permits for graduate students who have to move to Somerville to find affordable housing. We want a guarantee that the number of graduate beds given to undergraduates will be significantly reduced each year with a maximum duration of 4 years (if the problem is over-enrollment and the situation is resolved starting with this incoming class, 4 years should be all that is needed). Most of all we want assurances that graduate beds will stop being considered undergraduate beds-in-waiting.

Finally, if we are expected to see this as an opportunity as well as a problem, place undergraduates in the graduate residences who can integrate with the graduate community, not ones who need to be walled off from us. Do not take away a room that already belongs to a particular graduate student, earned through the notoriously difficult-to-win continuing student lottery. And do not touch the graduate residence that stands as an example to the rest of us, Ashdown.

Make no mistake; we don’t think that any graduate beds should be given to undergraduates. Crowding has been happening for over ten years and simple admissions attention can solve the problem in another three to four years. Why can’t this overcrowding issue resolve itself? Especially since, unless voluntarily continued, no undergraduate is forced into an overcrowding situation for more than their freshman year. Is that inconvenience really important enough to cost a graduate student around $300 extra a month to live off-campus and untold amounts in the loss of the ability to live in and belong to a graduate student community?

Christina Silcox is a graduate student in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology and president of The Warehouse (NW30), a first-year grad dorm. Several residents and officers contributed to this column.