Faculty Establish a Campus Planning Committee
At the well-attended last faculty meeting of the semester, the MIT faculty present voted unanimously to establish a Campus Planning Committee as a standing committee of the faculty. This was the outcome of a process that unfolded over the 2013-2014 year.
From this perspective, it is unfortunate that MIT’s current plans call for the construction of three large commercial office towers in the Kendall Square/East Campus area, but have made no provision for building graduate student housing on these campus sites. More than 4,000 graduate students live off campus, in an increasingly difficult housing market, with one of the lowest vacancy rates and highest rents of any community in the country. Many graduate students need to live close to their laboratories, and being pushed further and further away from the campus has become a major source of distress.
Responding to graduate student and faculty calls for more urgent attention to these pressures, the Provost in March 2013 established a Working Group on Graduate Student Housing. This committee recently released its draft report which called for the immediate construction of 500-600 additional on-campus units, with 400 more to follow, after renovating some existing space.
To ensure that such priorities have a permanent champion, a group of senior faculty acted to introduce a motion establishing a faculty-based Campus Planning Committee as a standing committee of the faculty. The Faculty Policy Committee subsequently worked with the proposers and the administration to develop an improved substitute motion, which was the motion passed on May 21.
The establishment of this new standing committee does not of course ensure that all pending and future campus planning decisions will be in MIT’s best long-term interests. But it does create a forum in which faculty, students, and staff can bring their concerns to a deliberative committee and debate them without prejudice, thereby providing MIT’s decision-makers with an understanding of how their decisions play on the central functions of the Institute, as viewed by the broader Institute community.