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Ashdown Conversion Committees To Recruit

By Valery K. Brobbey

As construction continues on the new graduate dormitory, recruitment is underway to staff a steering committee and three subcommittees that will lead the efforts to convert Ashdown House into an undergraduate dormitory by fall 2008. At the same time, current residents of Ashdown are pushing to bring the name of the dormitory along with them to the new graduate residence, NW35, which will be located near Sidney-Pacific graduate residence.

The steering committee and its three subcommittees Transitions, Feasibility, and Programming will be responsible for overall planning, the phasing in of students, technical design issues of the building, and living-learning issues, such as advising and dining, respectively. The recruitment, which began Saturday, was aimed at attracting committed sophomores and juniors who will be working on “all issues involved with opening a new dormitory,” Dormitory Council President David A. Nedzel ’07 said. MIT administrators will also sit on the committee.

According to Nedzel, W1, the building currently named Ashdown, is expected to be open to undergraduate students in the fall of 2008. Construction work on NW35, the graduate dormitory that will house displaced Ashdown residents, is also expected to be complete at that time, the Division of Student Life Web site states. Director of Housing, Karen A. Nilsson, however, would not commit to a date for the opening of W1 to undergraduates, saying that she “can’t say at this moment in time.”

Reacting to speculations that W1 will serve as temporary housing for undergraduates while other dormitories are renovated, Nilsson said that, in the long term, “renovations for East Campus, Random Hall and Bexley will be necessary.” “However, the W1 project is currently in a feasibility study only and decision regarding the renovations/upgrades to other building has not been discussed,” Nilsson added.

While the cost of the new graduate dormitory NW35 is estimated at $104 million, the renovation costs for W1 is “dependent on the scope of the project,” Nilsson said. “Rents will not be set until closer to the re-opening of W1 as an undergraduates dorm.” Renovations will include adding Graduate Resident Tutor apartments to W1.

NW35 may allow for more frosh

Some of goals of the NW35 project, according to the Division of Student Life Web site, includes “ending Senior Segue” or the placing of seniors in graduate residences, “achieving a net gain in graduate beds on campus,” and “increasing the size of the freshman class.”

“I expect that we’ll grow the class a bit over the next few years, but only as much as the housing stock can accommodate,” Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones said in an e-mail. “Though the size of the class is never determined by one person, I don’t believe that the freshman class will ever grow to more than 1,100 students, the all-time high number in the 1980s.”

“Class size will not affect the kind of students we admit or affect our recruitment strategies because the fluctuations are so minor from year to year,” Jones added.

Students worried about prices

Ashdown residents have requested to “bring the name ‘Ashdown’ to NW35,” Nilsson said.

According to Sian A. Kleindienst G, chair of the Ashdown House Executive Committee, residents want to carry the name over to the new building because Avery Ashdown PhD ’24, then a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry, was the first Housemaster of Ashdown and a big proponent of graduate student life.

The names of the rooms, including the Hulsizer Room in W1, would also be transferred to the new building, Kleindienst said.

Graduate students continue to have concerns about the transition. Kleindienst said that some students cannot pay the higher rents in NW35 and worries that other students may move into the new building at the expense of current Ashdown residents. But at the same time, students are hopeful.

“The Northwest sector of campus,” which already has three graduate dorms, will enhance “a strong graduate student presence,” Nilsson said. Kleindienst hopes that this will “facilitate more collaboration” between graduate students.

“We’re very happy with the final design of the new building,” Weese said. “I’m excited about the proposal for food in the new building. Given the large number of grad students in the area, it seems like it should be possible to have a dining hall serving dinner on a daily basis.”

The application deadline for the steering committee and subcommittees is Oct. 9 and Oct. 15, respectively. Nine undergraduates are currently needed, according to Nedzel. Interested students can send their applications to