This summer, the third floor of the Burton side of the Burton-Conner dormitory, also known as Burton Third, saw renovations that included painting over murals and dismantling the bar area. Like two other floors which had similar renovations completed in last summer, Burton Third received new paint, had its walls repaired, and floor tiles replaced.
Burton Third residents, known for their parties, were informed of the changes this past spring by House Manager Ken Donaghey, according to Burton-Conner housemasters Anne E. C. McCants. The McCants not only emailed students, but also hosted a dinner for them in the Burton Third lounge to tell the students about the summer changes.
Some students dispute the level of transparency in communication. “For the bar, we were never told that anything was going to be done. We actually got an email from our house manager about some rooms were going to be painted over, but again, nothing about murals,” said Chyleigh Harmon ’14, a former resident of Burton Third.
In an email to The Tech, McCants said that the bar needed to be removed because the new flooring in the lounge. The murals contained alcohol-related and “offensive” images, according to Senior Associate Dean for Student Life Henry Humphreys.
Regardless, the prevailing sentiment is that the culture of the floor will never be the same. “It’s part of the floor culture, having those murals,” said Harmon. The bar is also not insignificant. Many alumni saved numerous beer bottles in the bar area, which were not kept when the bar was disassembled. According to Harmon, Burton Third plans to involve incoming freshmen in painting new murals. In addition, they also plan to rebuild the bar, but are unsure of the time line. “I definitely think some senior MechE majors would be interested in fixing it up,” remarked Harmon. The floor chairs, Zachary Brooks ’15 and Max Kanter ’15, declined to comment on Burton Third’s plans.
However, the process of repainting and rebuilding requires several levels of approval. The McCants “felt that some of the murals did not meet the standards of the Institute and that the bar was not appropriate,” according to Humphreys. Any new murals proposed on the floor must be approved by the housemasters, area director, and house manager. Designs must be in accordance with the MIT Mind and Hand Book, which relegates alcohol consumption to individual dormitory rooms and not in common areas. “Approved wall art, etc., in the dorm will be consistent with this policy,” wrote McCants.
Although students are entitled to freedom of expression in the Mind and Hand Book, they must also be aware of the Institute’s harassment and hazing polices when designing their murals. The previous murals were “promoting drinking in an environment where most students are underage,” said Humphreys. Despite the rules, Humphreys is confident that the housemasters “are willing to move forward with Burton Third so that they reflect the positive aspects of the community.”