Preserve MIT’s Campus Through Sound Long-Range Planning: Support Establishment of a Campus Planning Committee
Although we often take it for granted, MIT’s campus between the Charles River and urban Cambridge undergirds our rich intellectual environment. The interaction among talented students, faculty, and research staff is critical for productivity and innovation. In newer buildings, great attention has been given to maximizing opportunities for communication. Such face-to-face interactions cannot be matched on commuter campuses, which is one reason why most leading U.S. colleges and universities are residential campuses. The Internet may possibly enhance experimental skills, teaching, and interchanges that take place in many laboratories, but use of the Internet alone remains sub-optimal in many fields, even with the growth of digital distance learning.
Given the importance of the campus itself for MIT’s productivity, it is surprising that MIT lacks Campus Planning as a Standing Committee of the Faculty.
We doubt that the radical decision embodied in the recent MITIMCo petition, to a) Build two or three large commercial office buildings in the heart of the East Campus, and b) Decline to build graduate student housing, would have survived full faculty scrutiny.
The latter decision is likely to make MIT less desirable for potential graduate students as the housing market tightens in the next few years, impacting particularly our junior faculty. It is ironic that one of the pressures on the graduate housing market will be the thousands of new personnel employed in the new campus commercial office buildings.
The administration recently announced the selection of a group of architectural, development, and consulting firms to advance the MITIMCo plan for Kendall Square and the East Campus. Launching a design process before deciding whether the East Campus land ought to contain more commercial development, graduate student housing, or academic facilities, or some defined mixture, puts the cart before the horse. Consultants without a stake in the life and work of our campus are not a substitute for an actual Campus Planning Committee.
We therefore encourage our colleagues to attend the next two faculty meetings in which a motion to establish a new Standing Committee of the Faculty on Campus Planning will be introduced, debated, and voted upon. (Click here to view the motion.) Without significant faculty attendance there may be little action, simply owing to the lack of a quorum.