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Institute Will Close During Holidays

By Harris Wang

The MIT campus will be closed for 11 days from Dec. 25 until Jan. 5 in an effort to reduce operational expenses.

The closing comes at a time when the Institute is facing budget cuts following poor investment returns and a drop in MIT’s endowment from $5.4 billion to $5.1 billion.

While essential services such as campus police and health services will be staffed as they normally are on weekends and holidays, other areas such as mail and payroll will provide very limited service, according to the Finances Web site.

Instead of normal departmental deliveries, mail and packages will be available for pickup at Mail Services in Building WW15. Time sensitive mail such as FedEx may be prearranged for special delivery. Mail to the dormitories will not be affected because the U.S. Postal Service delivers directly to the dormitories, said Marty O. Brien of Mail Services.

Paychecks will be available for pickup in Building NE49 on Wednesday, Dec. 31. The Cashier’s Office in Building 10 will be closed from Dec. 25 to Jan. 4.

Saferide will operate on normal schedule while Tech Shuttle will not be available during the holiday closing days.

Residence halls will remain open as usual during the holidays because many students, especially international students, stay on campus during the winter vacation.

On-campus dining facilities will be limited. At least one on-campus food provider will be open during the break, except for on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The holiday dining schedule is posted at http://web.mit.edu/dining.

Closing days, not vacation days

Many employees use their vacation days around Christmas and New Year’s because they want to extend their holidays. Because these days are generally “low productivity days,” the Institute has decided to turn them into cost-saving days by closing parts of campus, said Executive Vice President John R. Curry.

For employees, the closing days are meant to be equivalent to Institute holidays. The closing days will not count toward employees’ vacation days.

“It’s a form of benefit that will offset, for quite a few people on this campus, the fact that they will not be getting raises the next year,” Curry said.

Curry is not aware of any previous closings and does not anticipate future closings at MIT.

Numbers still unclear

Curry declined to comment on the exact amount that the Institute will save through the closing, but he said that “it will be a meaningful amount of money.”

The Institute spends about $100 million per month and two-thirds of that is employee salary, which the closing does not affect, said Curry.

The practice of closing college campuses during winter break is not uncommon. Curry admits that closing during the break is more difficult and not often done for a research institute such as MIT because there are laboratories and experiments running constantly.

Curry ensured that critical needs in laboratories and facilities will be met during the closing. “Labs that need to run will run,” said Curry.

Working during the closing

Some find the winter break to be the best time to work.

“That time is when I can really work,” said Professor of Physics Ulrich J. Becker, referring to the holiday closing days.

Becker, who works at the Laboratory for Nuclear Science, finds that he is most productive during the holiday vacation. “Because everyone is away, I switch off my phone, and get some real work done,” he said.

Becker does not think the closing will affect his graduate students because most either leave for the break or they can work on their theses from home.

Inconvenience for some students

Many international students stay for winter vacation. International travel and visa hassles force some students like Basel Al-Naffouri G to stay on-campus for the holidays.

“I’d rather I have the campus open. It’s inconvenient with everything closed,” said Al-Naffouri, who will not be able to go home to Syria this winter. “The Religious Activities Center and the chapel may be closed as well so I will not be able to pray there,” he said.

“During last year’s break, a group friends and I watched movies in one of the classrooms with the projectors,” said Nasruddin Nazerali ’05, who is from Ethiopia. “With the campus closed, it might be an inconvenience, but it's not so bad,” he said.