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Task Force Reports On Housing

By Lauren E. LeBon

STAFF REPORTER

MIT dormitories may be divided into “residence houses” and “conference houses” over the summer, according to a recent report from the summer housing task force.

The dormitories designated as “residential” will house MIT undergraduates as well as high school students attending MIT summer youth programs. Those dormitories designated as “conference space” will be saved for persons visiting academic events, including the Tech reunion and annual department conferences hosted at MIT, said Dormcon president and task force member Emily E. Cofer ’04.

East Campus, Bexley, Random Hall, Burton-Conner, and MacGregor will be selected as “residential houses,” while Baker House, McCormick, Next House, New House, Simmons, Senior House, and NW30 will be reserved for “conference space.” The dormitories were selected “partly on past experience and partly on the physical condition of the buildings,” Cofer said.

The task force, which includes members of the Department of Student Life, Dormcon, Conference Services, and housing staff, submitted the report on Jan. 30 to Dean of Student Life Larry G. Benedict.

Summer housing may see changes

Cofer said that about 800 undergraduates request summer housing, and that at least 800 beds will be provided. However, this year, students from youth programs, including high school students participating in Research Science Institute program and the Minority Introduction to Engineering, Entrepreneurship, and Science program will live alongside undergraduates.

Out of the 3,100 available undergraduate beds, 800 will be reserved for undergraduates and another 300-400 will be for youth program students. Meanwhile, the conference dormitories will provide a “hotel environment” for visiting conference attendees, Cofer said.

“In the conference buildings, desk will operate in a more intensive customer service mode, as befits a place with many out-of-town visitors,” the task force wrote in the report. “We also expect that the desk operations in the ‘student houses’ will be improved, as well, but the type of service will be more similar to school year operations.”

According to the report, the dormitories designated as “conference” and “residential” will rotate each summer.

Summer RA position proposed

The report also suggests the creation of a “summer resident assistant,” an undergraduate or graduate student who will serve the dormitory “as a resource and crisis referral link for the students living there.”

“GRTs don’t have official responsibilities over the summer at MIT, but [students] will have a go-to person in case something goes wrong,” said Kevin R. Lang G, a graduate resident tutor at Simmons Hall and a task force member.

“Being a GRT is a fair time commitment all year long,” Lang said, and the summer is the only time these students have “flexibility.”

Cofer said that graduate resident tutors, although they are living in dormitories over the summer, only commit to a nine month position which runs during the school year, and are often “sucked into things they aren’t responsible for.”

The summer residence assistant will work to “preserve goodwill in the GRT system,” Lang said. “I was pleased with the way they [the task force] handled summer staffing.”

As an incentive for dormitories to agree with the proposal, the report recommends that dormitories receive a small monetary reward for housing a certain number of summer residents, and will be provided with minor renovations, such as kitchen and bathroom improvements, over the summer.

Report describes summer issues

The task force report lists a number of problems that the new summer housing plan hopes to resolve.

First, the report said that undergraduate students who live in summer housing do not have the “organized community” that exists during the school year.

“There is no residential hall staff and no Institute funds regularly dedicated to providing a continuation of the school year community,” the report said.

Next, the report said that there is no “responsible employee” and no “reliably functioning disciplinary system” over the summer, and that this has led to problems in dealing with “serious incidents.”

Other summer problems cited in the report were difficulties with undertaking major maintenance problems, problems with accommodating conference visitors, and damage to property stored in dormitories over the summer after use by summer residents.

Finally, the report said that high school students living in undergraduate housing require special consideration and need extra help in creating a link between these students and summer undergraduates.

Report offers other suggestions

The task force report suggests offering special consideration to students who participate in extensive dormitory employment positions.

According to the report, “MIT should offer free summer housing to three sets of summer workers: (1) desk captains, who will also receive hourly compensation, (2) desk workers who agree to work 40 hours per week at desk, and (3) ‘grunge workers,’ who similarly agree to work 40 hours per week. In the latter two categories, 40 hours may prove to be too high a standard, but the idea is to provide special incentives to students who commit to serious residential staff work during the summer, beyond ‘an hour here, an hour there.’”