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Renovations made MacGregor safe

I am writing to clarify several assertions in the opinion piece by Ryan Normandin, published on October 5, 2010.

The fire alarm testing at MacGregor last month was not excessive nor did it endanger residents. My office, in cooperation with MIT Facilities, took every step to minimize the intrusiveness of this testing. We started two weeks ahead of time in August and, once classes started on Sept. 8, conducted tests between only 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the request of the student residents. Combined with other measures, we were able to restrict the bulk of class-time testing to just five days for four hours each, a reduction of 85 percent from the original schedule for this period.

Throughout the process, we met with the Housemasters and GRTs and communicated with residents to update them on the plans and progress. One possible explanation for Normandin’s observation that few students left the building during a test is that the new fire alarm system in MacGregor is separated between the high-rise and the low-rise. If an alarm sounds in the high-rise, low-rise residents will not be asked to leave and vice-versa. Moreover, had there been an actual emergency during testing, the new system includes a public address feature would have allowed us to alert students at any time with specific instructions.

I am also bewildered by the op-ed’s headline, presumably written by The Tech staff, stating that “summer safety upgrades blew deadline after deadline, putting students at risk.” This is simply untrue: our projects proceeded on schedule and according to plan. Apart from the alarm testing, the only work that extended into the semester related to improvements to the hot water and heating systems. These upgrades occurred in mechanical spaces, did not affect building services, and were not noticeable to students.

We test fire alarm systems to assure that our students will be safe in an emergency. The important message about this summer’s work is that MacGregor students are now enjoying considerable improvements to their safety and comfort. In the future, I encourage The Tech to check with my office before publishing assertions that we made mistakes that put students at risk.

—Dennis Collins
Director of Housing, Division of Student Life