The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 41.0°F | Fair


Locked Stock

Philip Burrowes

MIT is supposed to open doors to us that would otherwise be out of our reach. Why, then, are so many actual doors physically locked? Is it merely a necessity of security? Are these does actually locked, or is it a test to see who can obviate opening them in accessing the plunder they hold? The answers may surprise you.

Lecture Hall 10-250 is home to many evil and boring classes, with the occasional fascinating lecturer or a capella concert shuttled into its soporific structure. As anyone should know, entering the room brings one right behind the arena, or ground floor, with stairs ascending on either side. Whenever one attempts to enter the room after it begins to swell with listeners, one is visible to nearly everyone who has already found a place.

Between 10-250 and Building 13, however, lies a rear entrance to the hall. One need not brave the disapproving eye of the already-arrived crowd; simply sneak behind the A/V-booth and peer around pillars until one has spied a seat, or maybe even secret oneself in the stairwell. That way you don’t disturb the lecture, and self-consciousness need not get the best of you. Yet one problem remains: this door is regularly locked.

Let us look at the logical reasons for locking the door. Oh, wait, there are none. You can enter 10-250 from the double doors any time, so security is not being preserved. It is impossible to lock from the inside, so if there were a fear of students sneaking out when they should be sleeping, this does not solve the problem. Clearly, the intent is indeed to embarrass people when they enter late. What is surprising is not that the administration has resorted to such a cheap trick, but that they have not instituted a similar feature to 54-100’s rear, or shifted the entrance dynamics of 26-100. Perhaps the relative discomfort one feels in those even more depressing halls suffices.

Many other buildings have doors that are locked, often by password, yet are still accessible in roundabout ways. Building 66 is rather readily accessible through the entrance between buildings 16 and 56, yet its direct entrance becomes accessible only with an ID card during the evening. Across the street, buildings E17-19 have their Ames Street entrances locked at evening as well, and this time only card-carriers with special clearance may enter. Still, they are accessible through E23/25 (which in turn has the generic card lock), albeit a more convoluted connection than 56 to 66. There appears to be some notion of psychologically selective permeability, i.e. locking off conventional routes will deter the riffraff, who will not bother to seek out additional options. Exactly why these buildings are selected would require a laborious deconstruction of the internal hierarchy of the Institute.

One locked door which may give us a hint at the broader strata lies in Far East Campus. E51-53 (and E40, which, like, totally clashes with the color scheme) are all connected above ground. Almost totally out of step with the rest of campus, the E5xs have open front doors. The Tang Center for Management Education pretends to lock itself though it’s card-accessible, but Sloan goes as far as to leave an open door on its Memorial Drive side. Given the concentration of graduate and master’s students in the area, a strange race that keeps even odder hours than the undergraduate, it would seem like an act of benevolence. Yet deep within the recesses of this Sloanie playground lies a bastion of “actual” science: the Economics Department. Sure enough, a keypad lock (a Sloanie can steal a card but can’t remember numbers) prevents Sloanies from venturing too close to the department’s secrets, lest upon encountering actual work they explode into pure energy and hurtle in the diametrically opposite direction. HASS and STS students that frequent the bowels of Tang theoretically fit the same description, bur theirs is a sordid story of hybridization unbefitting a fine family paper.

Some locks are impossible to avoid and simply inexplicable. The Stratton Center Game Room, now that it has been moved up in the place of Transitions, is supposed to be locked at midnight. As it has only two entrances, once locked there is no recourse (and perhaps no escape, but now we’re getting ridiculous). Given the lack of surveillance in the area, the difficulty in stealing an arcade game, and the fact that nobody at MIT has gone to bed by midnight, it is difficult to see a rationale behind the decision. No, it appears sometimes they’re just jerks.