MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXVIII No. 1
September / October 2015
MIT's Role in the Iran Nuclear Negotiations
Iran and the P5+1 Pact
Pluto in View! O! The Joy!
The Year Ahead
An Open Letter to President Reif and the Executive Committee on Divesting from Fossil Fuel Companies
MIT Construction Plans Continue
to Undervalue Graduate Student Needs
A Frog in Water
Part I: The Forces That Move Us
Why MIT Is Implementing Duo
Two-Factor Authentication
Professor John W. Belcher Receives Prestigious Oersted Medal
Enhanced Mental Health Initiatives
and MindHandHeart Announced
Nominate a Colleague as a
MacVicar Faculty Fellow
Teaching this fall? You should know . . .
Status of World Nuclear Forces 2015
Printable Version

MIT Construction Plans Continue to Undervalue Graduate Student Needs

Frederick P. Salvucci

During August, MITIMCo (MIT Investment Management Company) convinced the Cambridge Historic Commission to reduce the landmark protection for the Eastgate Married Student Housing building, which MITIMCo seeks to demolish and replace with a commercial laboratory building.

This continues a pattern of MIT losing sight of its core missions of education and research, as it seeks to behave as a real estate developer.

The MITIMCo plan continues to pay only lip service to dealing with the serious challenge of providing affordable on- or near-campus housing for graduate students facing an increasingly harsh, superheated rental market in Cambridge and Boston, as it pursues commercial real estate development in Kendall Square. When MIT acquired the land near Kendall Square decades ago, it entered into contractual agreements with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and federal HUD to forgo commercial use of the land in order to focus on its core education and research missions. Since 1962, MIT had a including a policy of providing at least 50 percent of graduate students affordable on campus housing, and the current superheated rental market requires even more.

Kendall Square is a perfect location to renew and expand graduate student housing at and near Eastgate. But MITIMCo today instead is prioritizing commercial ventures at Kendall, with the most readily available and developable vacant sites being proposed for luxury housing, commercial office space, commercial laboratory use, and very expensive underground parking. Proposals to increase graduate student housing, with no clear funding or timetable, are included on sites encumbered with existing historic buildings currently occupied by important MIT uses. For example, the MIT Press building is occupied by many different MIT organizations, and MITIMCo proposes to do radical rehabilitation of the structure which will be very expensive and require all the existing users to relocate, with no relocation plan and no explanation of how the current occupants will be able to afford to ever return.

Rather than renovating the Eastgate Married Student Housing building, MITIMCo proposes to demolish the building and daycare facility to re-use the land for a commercial laboratory, and is negotiating with the Cambridge Historic Commission to avoid landmark status for the building, which would make it more difficult to destroy.

MITIMCo has stated that before the Eastgate housing is destroyed, new units of housing will be available, but with no explanation of when this will occur, nor a financial plan to deliver the housing.

If the expansion of affordable near-campus graduate student housing were prioritized by MIT, the luxury housing proposed on MIT land on Main Street could be used immediately for a combination of Married Student Housing and affordable units, and Eastgate tenants could be relocated there while Eastgate is rehabilitated and expanded as net new, affordable graduate student housing. The largely vacant Cambridge Trust site adjacent to the MBTA entrance could be another excellent site for graduate student housing. MIT should not be undertaking hyper-expensive underground parking, but could instead use the money for affordable graduate student housing, as well as incentivizing transit use by employees.

The failure to provide affordable on-campus student housing damages the viability of the unique MIT model of student-based high quality research, and simultaneously imposes serious burdens on the neighboring community by competing for ever scarcer affordable neighborhood housing.

Conversely, if MIT takes aggressive action to provide more on-campus student housing, it will serve both the core education and research mission of MIT, and relieve the housing pressure on the neighboring communities.

Building significant amounts of on-campus housing sooner rather than later requires land, money, and priority. Instead of using scarce MIT land for commercial ventures and scarce dollars for underground parking, MIT should prioritize student housing that will reinforce its core mission and honor the commitments it made when the land was acquired, leaving real estate development to the private sector.

Back to top
Send your comments