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UA Votes to Revamp Reading Room Area

By Christine R. Fry


The Undergraduate Association passed a resolution last night to endorse a proposal to renovate the reading room on the fifth floor of the Student Center.

As a result, the UA struck down an alternative proposal, sponsored by the Association of Student Activities, to divide the 5,207 square foot reading room in half, leaving half of the space for studying and the other half of the space for a new MIT Science Fiction Society library. The MITSFS currently houses its collection in a room on the fourth floor of the Student Center.

Using data from a week-long survey of undergraduates, the UA found a stronger case for renovations. Over one fourth of the 1,000 respondents said they use the reading room at least a few times a week, and more than two thirds said the proximity of the reading room to the fifth floor Athena cluster is important.

“The UA Council has been given a mandate by the student body to renovate the reading room,” said David M. Elihu ’05, Interfraternity Council representative to the UA and sponsor of the renovation proposal.

The proposal, which was passed 10-4-2, will be submitted to the Dean of Student Life and the Campus Activities Complex Director and will ultimately decided upon by the Committee for the Review of Space Planning, an advisory group chaired by the Provost.

UA sponsors undergrad survey

Originally, the ASA proposed to allocate the entire reading room to the MITSFS library. This was met with opposition from the UA. A compromise proposal was then drafted to split the reading room. This was presented to the UA general council at the last regular meeting, last month.

“The proposal is about expanding ASA space,” not putting the MITSFS library in the fifth floor reading room, said president of MITSFS Edward A. Keyes G. The MITSFS is first on the list for ASA space openings.

“The general views of the councilors were opposed to this proposal,” said Parul Deora ’04, UA vice president.

At that meeting, the UA decided to conduct an online survey of the undergraduate student body to determine the student opinion on the matter. The survey was run during the week of Monday, Nov. 25. Exactly 1,000 students responded to the survey, which required personal security certificates.

“The survey was great publicity for MITSFS,” Deora said.

Undergrads want renovations

According to the survey results, 28.3 percent of the respondents use the reading room several or a few times per week. Eighty-two percent don’t use the MITSFS library at all. Approximately 34 percent of the respondents would use the reading room as often as before if half of it was given to the MITSFS library and 30.2 percent would use it a lot less often.

“They were pretty much what my gut instinct was,” Deora said. “There were a lot of people who empathized with the MITSFS library and that they need space.”

“It shows that MIT students really don’t want a library in the reading room space,” said Nadjia M. Yousif ’04, Simmons Hall representative to the UA.

Deora said that students put a lot of effort into their responses, many offering suggestions for improvements to the reading room. Some of these suggestions included raising the ceiling for a more spacious feeling, improving lighting, and providing white boards.

MITSFS library fate unknown

Deora said Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict will not consider any proposals that are not supported by the UA. Benedict ultimately decides which proposals are passed on to the CRSP.

The original ASA compromise proposal will still be submitted to Benedict, without support from the UA.

“At this point it’s up to the space allocation committee,” Keyes said.

CRSP will meet on Dec. 15 to reallocate spaces on campus and allocate money for renovations. Andrew R. Menard G, a member of the ASA executive committee, said the CRSP does not need to approve renovations such as new furniture and lighting in the reading room. Renovation proposals can go through the Campus Activities Complex, which manages the Student Center.

Some express doubts over survey

Keyes and Ross L. Hatton ’05 expressed doubts about the validity of the survey because it was presented as a reading room survey. This may have biased the results of the survey since reading room patrons would be more likely to respond.

Menard also said that the critical usage time of the reading room, during the next two weeks as students begin to study more for finals, should be considered.

“I’m interested in going up [to the reading room] and doing an hourly poll in the next two weeks,” Menard said.

Unauthorized survey not included

A paper survey with the same questions as the UA survey was placed in the reading room by an unknown person or group.

“It was brought to our attention that there were paper surveys conducted in the reading room,” Deora said. “They copied and pasted the entire survey that was on the UA web site, but they did add a paragraph on their own that gave the MITSFS view of it, which is fine.”

However, the survey used the name of the UA without permission from the UA. The results of that survey, which have not been made public, were not included in the results of the UA survey because of the possibility of bias and multiple responses from a single individual.