East Campus Development Plans
In mid-July, the Provost sent out an update on the East Campus/Kendall Square development plan. The plan has definitely been improved from the original MITIMCo proposal. With the inclusion of some graduate housing, as recommended by the Graduate Student Housing Working Group, it has begun to take into account one of the major concerns expressed by the faculty. The proposal to tear down Eastgate graduate student housing remains somewhat unresolved, but the Provost assures us it will be replaced either on the East Campus or elsewhere. We applaud the assertion that new graduate housing will be built first.
Moving the MIT Museum – a very popular resource for area families with school-age children – to the vicinity of Kendall Square ensures that there will be a connection to the surrounding Cambridge community.
We regret that the Provost made no mention of the newly formed Campus Planning Committee or of its expected role in the East Campus/Kendall Square process. This entity was created as a standing committee of the faculty by a unanimous vote at the May faculty meeting, and constitutes a new venue for faculty input and participation.
Elsewhere in this issue, Professor MeejinYoon describes the input of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning faculty to the design process. Early on, failure to include our own MIT faculty in the design and planning was one of the criticisms expressed in these pages of the MITIMCo procedure. We have no doubt that the input of our colleagues has improved, and will continue to improve, the East Campus design. Three well-designed commercial office buildings are preferable to the three ungainly buildings.
Members of the Graduate School Council, faculty, and staff argued that 600 new units are not adequate to provide for the more than 4500 graduate students who must find off-campus housing each year [web.mit.edu/fnl/volume/264/gsc.html]. With the heating up of the Cambridge housing market, generating one of the lowest vacancy rates in the nation, on-campus graduate housing is becoming a higher priority [web.mit.edu/fnl/volume/264/salvucci.html].
We must not knowingly increase burdens on our graduate students. Already graduate students are forced to move further away from campus and spend more time commuting.
This has reduced both their quality of life and research productivity. A well-documented summary of the graduate student housing shortage is in the Waugh et al. article in the Faculty Newsletter March/April issue. The productivity of graduate students in chemistry, biology, materials science or other fields is a central issue for the overall mission of MIT.
Ensuring the best use of the East Campus development will require the input of, and potentially benefit from, the new faculty Campus Planning Committee, representing much broader dimensions of the needs of those who work at MIT. We hope the Nominations Committee will follow the recommendation of Faculty Chair Steven Hall and expedite the nominations process for this very important new standing committee.