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As construction on new graduate dormitory NW35 continued throughout the year, MIT Housing decided on the fate of Building W1, opened a new cultural house, and extended Residence Exploration to freshmen placed in Next House.

A new Ashdown, a new W1

For many students, the biggest news in housing in 2007 was the construction of new graduate residence NW35 (to be called Ashdown) and the renovation of the existing Ashdown (Building W1) into an undergraduate residence.

In January 2007, Sherwin Greenblatt ’62, then-interim executive vice president, announced that the fourth floor of NW35 would be eliminated from the building due to rising costs. The unexpected decision provoked an outcry from students who were involved in the initial design process, during which administrators had promised to maintain transparency.

Greenblatt’s replacement, Theresa M. Stone SM ’76, reversed his decision when she took office in early February.

The residence’s cost was projected to be $115 million, well above its original budget of $104 million.

Based on the requests of graduate student leadership, NW35 will retain some of the features of the current Ashdown residence, including a new Thirsty Ear Pub and a new dining room to replace the large Hulsizer Room. MIT is also considering setting up dining service in the new Hulsizer Room. Building NW35 will be called Ashdown Hall, and it is currently scheduled to open by fall 2008.

Meanwhile, W1 will remain empty for two years while MIT renovates the building. The new Ashdown, NW35, will house 68 undergraduates for those two years. The Senior Segue program, in which undergraduates who said they planned to go to graduate school at MIT were housed in various graduate dormitories and paid undergraduate rates, will be discontinued.

It is as yet unclear how much money has been budgeted for the W1 renovations, who will be in charge of the renovations, or where the money will come from.

A 10-student “founders group” will be assembled soon and will begin to plan the culture of W1, in a model which was tried for Simmons Hall. Because W1 is expected to open in fall 2010, only current freshmen will have the opportunity to live in the new dorm. But upperclassmen will be allowed to apply to and serve in the founders group.

Director of Housing Dennis Collins said he expected that some students would never have a chance to live in the hall but would still be interested in helping to establish it. He said that more details about the founders group should be available in and how to apply to it should appear within the next month.

International House opens

International House, a living group focused on international development, opened in New House 1 in fall 2007 in 21 undergraduate residents making up 14 different nationalities. It replaces Russian House, which closed in New House 1 in 2005.

iHouse was designed as a “living and learning community,” said Urban Studies and Planning Professor Bish Sanyal. Residents are expected to carry out international development projects and to attend dinners and other events with an international focus.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for me because I’m interested in architecture and urban planning and there are lots of international development projects in these fields,” iHouse Graduate Resident Tutor Tsitsi I. Gora G said in September.

Like most of MIT’s cultural houses, iHouse allows “social membership” for people who want to get involved with its projects but who don’t live in the house.

The new community collaborates with the D-Lab international development class, which reserves four spots reserved for iHouse residents. D-Lab Senior Lecturer Amy B. Smith serves as House Fellow and lives in iHouse.

At the iHouse inauguration on Sept. 4, the 484 Phi Alpha Foundation presented the living group with $50,000.

Residence Exploration for Next House freshmen

Next House residents found auspicious news in the December announcement that the incoming freshman class would get to participate in Residence Exploration.

Unlike most other freshmen, those placed into Next House by the summer housing lottery were in the past forbidden to switch dorms because doing so would interfere with the Residence-Based Advising program. The change in policy, pushed for by the Next House housemasters, means that freshmen who enter or leave Next House during REX will have to switch advisors.

Dormitory Council President Sarah C. Hopp ’08 said in December that the change was beneficial for Next House residents. “They can focus on getting a community that wants to live in Next House without worrying about not being able to move out,” Hopp said.

This change does not apply to McCormick Hall, which also has Residence-Based Advising, because “RBA in McCormick has worked for seven years,” McCormick Housemaster Charles H. Stewart III said. Few students placed in McCormick during the summer want to leave, according to Housing.

Both the date on which freshmen arrive on campus and the REX start date will be shifted slightly earlier for fall 2008 to accommodate these changes.