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Several of Walker Memorial’s student groups, pictured in this December 2010 file photo. The Walker Memorial Assessment Team is evaluating the feasibility of using Walker as a space for Music and Theater Arts, which could mean students groups will need to find new homes.
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The relationship between student groups in Walker Memorial and the administration has improved in the past few months with the formation of the Walker Memorial Assessment Team. In late March, the Graduate Student Council Task Force on Walker Memorial formally joined with the administration to form the team, chaired by Associate Provost Martin A. Schmidt PhD ’88. Representatives from the Undergraduate Association, the Music and Theater Arts faculty, Dean of Student Life Costantino Colombo, Dean of Graduate Student Education Christine Ortiz, and several faculty support staff are also part of the coalition.

The team was formed in response to concerns from student groups who may have to be relocated under a plan to transform Walker Memorial into the home of MIT’s Music and Theater Arts (MTA) program.

Since its formation, the assessment team has been having weekly meetings. They have finished the process of gathering the data they need from student groups with interests in Walker and are now in the midst of analyzing the data so they can properly assess how relocations may occur should the repurposing go forward.

“We’re in the process of taking the temperature of each organization.” Schmidt said, “We really want to capture the strong feelings of each organization and really make this an interactive process.”

The quality of communication between the affected student groups and the administration seems to have greatly improved since the team has been formed. Every student group that requested a direct meeting with the administration has been granted one.

“I would like to complement Professor Schmidt on the excellent job he’s done improving student engagement,” former GSC President and student member of the assessment team Ulric J. Ferner said. “It’s not easy to collectively survey student opinion like this. I’m amazed at the amount of work that’s been done, the progress that’s been made, and the transparency of the whole process.” Current GSC President Alex Evans, who was part of the original GSC task force before the assessment team was formed, agreed with this sentiment.

The GSC, in conjunction with the Black Students’ Union, has been hosting group meetings to gather input from the Walker groups. This also ensures that there is a standardized method for accurately gauging and representing student opinion.

“I don’t plan on changing anything with how the process is going,” Evans said. “We just want to do the best we can to get the info out there.”

The feasibility of the repurposing project is still under review. The assessment team is also reviewing scenarios for the student groups should the project go forward, looking primarily at temporary co-location of groups in Walker as well as dual use of what would become MTA spaces. However, a decision is still a long way from being made.

“There are substantial technical issues that we are still in the midst of reviewing,” UA student representative William F. Steadman ’11 said, ”There are a lot of foreseen and unforeseen circumstances that we need to take into account, including potential structural changes to the building.” Like GSC officials, Steadman was also pleased with the administration’s engagement process.

The team hopes to deliver the final report to the decision-making administrators by the end of May or early June, but no hard deadline has been set.

The Walker Memorial Assessment Team can be reached at walker-input@mit.edu.