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Morss Hall Will Soon Be Open to Student Groups

By Michael Sekora

Morss Hall in Walker Memorial will be available for use by student groups and MIT following the closing of dining services in the spring of 2004.

Possible uses for the space include a practice area for dance performance groups during the day. MIT also plans to use the space for catered events and conferences, said Director of Campus Dining Richard D. Berlin III.

There are currently no plans for immediate renovations or improvements to the space, however, said Director of the Campus Activities Complex Phillip J. Walsh. Walker “does have limitations,” he said, and possible renovations would total $50 to $60 million according to estimates made in 1995 and 2002. He said he foresees small investments for improvements, but not in the near future.

A new dining service will open in the Stata Center in January, and the decision to close Walker’s lunch service was made because “the size of our campus customer base cannot sustain both the Walker dining and Stata dining locations,” Berlin said.

New space available for groups

Walsh said Walker no longer serving lunch means that it will be available more often for student groups to reserve.

Despite additional hours and flexibility during the day, using Morss during the evening may continue to be a problem because event space is at a premium. MIT also plans to use the space for faculty events and conferences, some of which would occur in the evening.

Walsh said he envisioned that Walker will be used for faculty and conference events, alumni and recruiting events, departmental parties, and casual and formal student group events. He said that there are no plans to use the first floor for exams, as the third floor is currently used.

Alexander F. French ’05, an MIT Musical Theater Guild board member, said that “without dining during the day, and the tables that come with this,” it will be “much easier to set up large events ahead of time, which may require catering, complicated table setups, AV equipment, and lighting.”

MIT plans to use Walker to host catered events and dinner banquets since currently MIT has only “athletic facilities, local hotels, or outdoor tents to accommodate” any events, Berlin said. Hosting the events in those spaces requires “expensive setups such as tents and furniture rentals. Walker doesn’t have these additional logistical elements,” he said.

Presently, Walker is one of several event sites including La Sala de Puerto Rico, and Kresge used by MIT groups. However, event sites are often booked and there are no plans for MIT to build additional event space for group gatherings or theatrical rehearsals and performances.

Morss not useable for theater

The current setup in Morss Hall, however, is not suitable as another production space for theater groups.

Walker “does not come with a stock of lights and sound equipment that can be used by any group coming in,” said Dramashop President Andrew J. Perelson ’04. “Unless some sort of renovation took place to put a lot of that in, I can’t see many large theatrical performances going up. For low-tech shows, it would be a fine space,” he said.

“Besides the straight theater groups, other performance groups that might be interested in space are the dance groups like Kinesthetics Lab, Movements in Time, Ballroom Dance Club, etc.,” he said.

New lounge being considered

The Walker Program Review Group is currently considering one idea for a lounge area in either the second floor river front lobby or the first floor back entry, called the Beaver Room, Walsh said.

The review group consists of Walsh, Berlin, East Campus Housemaster Julian Wheatley, and student and Undergraduate Association representatives.