Green Hall, the women’s graduate dormitory, will become undergraduate housing and will exclusively house members of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority in fall 2008, residents were told in January. Current Green Hall residents were asked in January to leave by June 30, and they will have the option to move to any other graduate dormitory.
The announcement came as a surprise to residents, who had not been consulted before the decision was made. The Graduate Student Council president and the Undergraduate Association president both said they were dismayed to see a housing decision apparently made without consulting students. The lack of student input is reminiscent of MIT’s early 2006 announcement that Ashdown Hall would become an undergraduate dormitory, W1, and of the early 2007 decision that W1 will not contain kitchens when it is renovated into an undergraduate dormitory.
Although MIT has, starting 2006, planned to increase the undergraduate class size by about 100 per year, this goal seems more difficult now because there will be fewer spaces available to undergraduates. When W1 opens, it will add hundreds of undergraduate beds; but W1 is currently scheduled to undergo extensive renovations starting this fall and to reopen in fall 2010.
The Senior Segue program, which placed undergraduate seniors in graduate student housing, will end in the fall. As a result, 103 spaces in graduate dormitories that had been reserved for undergraduates will no longer be available. Additionally, Theta members will no longer reside in 22 spaces in Sidney-Pacific, as they have since fall 2003. Instead, Green Hall will house 46 undergraduate women who are Theta members.
Karen A. Nilsson, senior associate dean for residential life, said that displaced Green Hall residents will have the option to move into any other graduate dormitory. Many may choose to move into Sidney-Pacific, which has an all-female wing currently occupied by Theta members.
Students were not consulted before decision
Graduate Student Council president Leeland B. Ekstrom G said that Green Hall residents first learned of the move in January, when they were told that they would need to leave their home by June 30 and move to Sidney-Pacific. He said that after residents asked for more opportunities, MIT reconsidered its plans and allowed residents to move into other graduate dormitories.
Green Hall students were not told before January that MIT planned to move them out. “We’re quite amazed at the process that was used to make this decision and troubled by it,” Ekstrom said. “It certainly continues the precedent of the past couple of years, to go back to NW35 last year and two years ago. It’s a very similar trend,” he said.
But Ekstrom said that he was pleased with the outcome, if not the process, of these decisions. Removing Senior Segue is “one step further to righting the system” which had undergraduates paying lower rents than graduate students for rooms in graduate dormitories, Ekstrom said.
UA President Martin F. Holmes ’08 said that he had heard “nothing from the administration, because the administrators haven’t told us anything” about the decision to move Theta into Green Hall. He said that the Housing Strategy Group last met in December and had not discussed changes to Green Hall. The group, composed of undergraduates, graduate students, administrators, and deans, is meant to advise administrators on future housing issues.
Cost, community are concerns for residents
One problem for current Green Hall residents is whether they can afford to move: “the two most affordable buildings are now going to be removed from the graduate housing population,” Ekstrom said. For 2007–8, Green Hall doubles cost $525/month and singles cost $631/month. No other dormitory is as inexpensive, except for two-bedroom quad suites in Sidney-Pacific, which rent at $618/month. Next year’s rents for NW35 have not yet been set. See the chart below for additional rents.
Collins said that Housing would not subsidize any rent increase. He said that other graduate dormitories provide amenities, such as gyms and common areas, which justify their higher costs.
Green Hall residents are generally unhappy with the move. “Some people are very upset,” said Patricia A. Engel G, a resident of Green Hall. “If we had a choice, everyone would want to stay where we are.” She said that because Green Hall was one of the cheapest places to live on campus, many residents are not happy about having to move to a more expensive dorm. Many Green Hall residents live in singles, which are more difficult to come by in other dorms, she said.
But, Engel said, “what we can’t put a number on is the unique atmosphere.” Engel said that the small size of the dorm created a close-knit community, where “everyone knew everyone.” She said the dorm’s social events — catered to the residents’ interests — would be hard to duplicate.
Other Green Hall residents are displeased with the short time frame they have to move out. Dennis Collins, director of housing, said that some students have requested to leave later than June 30, and that those students are working with Dean for Graduate Students Steven R. Lerman ’72 to find a solution.
Collins said that Housing would have an answer soon for students who wanted more time in Green Hall. He said that emptying the hall will allow Housing to make minor renovations, including basement and window work.
‘Green’ name will remain
A plaque in the building announces that it is named after Ida Flansburgh Green, a “staunch advocate of women in the professions” and a “generous benefactor of women graduate students.” (The Green Building is named after Ida F. Green’s husband, Cecil H. Green ’24.) Nilsson said that the dormitory will retain its name. She said that there were “no funding restrictions” on the building’s use as graduate or undergraduate housing.
The hall was converted from the MIT infirmary into housing in 1983, when it opened as the Graduate Women’s House. It was named after Green shortly thereafter. Collins said that to preserve Ida Green’s memory, the building will keep its plaque and will remain a women’s dormitory.
But the dorm may look a little different next year; Nilsson said that the building will also have Theta’s Greek letters on it. And Lauren E. Wojtkun, assistant director for FSILGs in MIT’s Residential Life Programs, said “I think Theta will probably make changes to the inside of Green Hall to make it more homey for them.”
MIT will continue to manage the dormitory as undergraduate housing, Collins said. As with other dormitories, Housing will collect rent each semester; it does not plan to sell the house to Theta, Collins said.
With Ashdown’s conversion, Green Hall would have been the only graduate dormitory left on Dorm Row, which will stretch from Ashdown to Next House. Collins said in the absence of the large graduate community Ashdown provided, it makes sense for Green Hall to become an undergraduate dorm. And, he said, many Theta sisters live in nearby Baker House.
Future housing plans unclear
Collins said that the transition of a dorm into a sorority house might provide a model for fraternities who want to leave Boston and move into a house on campus.
As new graduate dormitories are built in the northwest section of campus, only three graduate residences will remain away from the northwest: Tang Hall, Westgate, and Eastgate. Westgate and Eastgate provide housing for families. MIT administrators have not announced any plans for these dormitories.
“Is there a plan that exists that has not been communicated at this point?” Ekstrom asked, somewhat rhetorically.
“If I had to write down a hit list, Tang would probably be next,” he said.
Nick Bushak contributed to the reporting of this article.