After being relocated into smaller offices due to renovations of their buildings, the Mathematics and Economics Departments are optimistic, though frustrated with their situation.
Currently the departments are situated in buildings E17, E18, and E19, having moved from the Math and Economics headquarters in Buildings 2 and E52, respectively. According to math instructor Joe Lauer, “It’s a bit smaller and more cramped than the old space, but that’s fine; in general I don’t think we need much space to work.”
The renovation was undertaken as part of the MIT 2030 initiative to improve the framework of the Institute. The projects are expected to be completed by summer 2015 for Building 2, and 2016 for Building E52.
Full professors were probably the hardest hit by the move according to math professor Gigliola Staffilani. “All full professors had big offices; everybody is taking a pretty big cut in terms of real estate,” said Staffilani, who now shares an office with a colleague.
“Professors that are not retired usually do not share offices, but these are very special circumstances,” continued Staffilani. “It is a consequence of the fact that we really don’t have any spare room here.”
One other consequence of the move, particularly for professors who were in employment before the computer age, is the droves of paper that they lost in the move. “Over the years some professors accumulated piles and piles of old papers and old calculations,” said Staffilani. “It took a lot of time for them to go through all that amount of stuff and find what to keep; these people really had to work hard, and the department was really supportive, providing staff to help them clean out.”
Professors were not the only ones affected. Graduate students have been situated into cubicles due to the lack of rooms, but all postdocs still have offices. “I have a smaller office with no windows, but it’s comfortable enough,” said Lauer. “It’s definitely less space, but probably better on the whole — the old building was creaky and falling apart while this one is more modern.”
Despite the tight living space, the departments seem happy, and the move has had some positive effects.
“Once you become a professor, you pick an office, and that stays with you basically until you retire or want to do something else. So for like 30 years you have the same spot, meaning you don’t really get to know other people,” said Staffilani. “With this move, and the fact that we didn’t keep the same order of offices, we got to meet a lot more people than we knew before. This has been really good in getting people to bringing the staff together.”
With renovations promising more modern amenities, while still preserving the infrastructure of the original construction. Recent plans released to the departments show a promising outlook for the renovation.
“We are very grateful to the head of our department for finding a place for us for the next two and a half years … We are actually pretty happy about it,” said Staffilani. “[Moving back] will be great since we’ll get bigger offices and will be more centralized.”