MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXXI No. 5
May / June 2019
The Danger to Civilian Science
from the Growing Pentagon Budget
Greetings to You the Graduates –
And to Your Families!
Time to Up Our Game
An Update on MIT's Climate Action Plan
Rick Danheiser New Faculty Chair
Random Faculty Dinner Notes
Academic Year 2018-2019
Hayden Library Renovation:
What You Should Know
Introducing the Faculty Committee
on Campus Planning
Should MIT Break All Ties With Saudi Arabia?
U. S. Discretionary Spending 2017
Printable Version

Introducing the Faculty Committee on Campus Planning

Deborah L. Ancona

As the Chair of the MIT Faculty Committee on Campus Planning (CCP) (click here for a list of this year's members), I would like to introduce you to our work. Why should you care? We are in the midst of the largest change on MIT’s campus in a hundred years and the CCP is the vehicle through which you have a voice. In this article we lay out what we have done, what issues still exist, and how you can help.

Our committee was created five years ago when faculty called for more input in the Kendall Square project. Since that time we have learned about the complex process of campus planning at MIT, created a set of principles for design, kept our fingers on the pulse of ongoing projects, (, and sent lists of questions to consider on ongoing projects such as Volpe, West Campus, and now the College of Computing (let us know if you want a copy). These questions are being circulated to key stakeholders and architects: we now have a presence in the planning process.

But there are still many questions about how campus planning should evolve and what role faculty should have in it. The CCP outlines current issues and our actions below and asks for your thoughts. Issues include how to assure a faculty voice in the planning process, what kind of planning we should have, building priorities, and the existential threat of housing costs on the MIT culture. We have started to craft responses to these issues and want your feedback.

Faculty should have a strong voice in how our campus evolves, especially since we are quickly using up the space that is currently available for construction and the decisions made today will impact the MIT landscape and culture well into the future.

Issue: The planning process is opportunity-driven and local.

Emerging needs and opportunities drive renovations and new buildings across campus. MIT’s preeminence in research and teaching triggers new opportunities continuously. The decision to take advantage of such opportunities is made by the administration and affected units relatively quickly, leading to surprises for everyone else. MIT is very good at leaving faculty to pursue their teaching and research within their units, which is a strength of the Institute, but with the consequence of something big being presented as a fait accompli for those just going about their business. Should this local response to opportunities drive the planning process? How should we lessen the impact of surprise and sometimes resentment? Adding to the confusion is the fact that MITIMCo (MIT Investment Management Company) builds commercial buildings close to, or on, what many faculty think of as campus. Should the faculty have any voice in MITIMCo decisions?

Action: We plan to continue to push for representation in key decisions and greater communication on what is decided.

Issue: The Faculty is not well informed on campus planning.

While faculty are asked for input in large planning projects, often we are ignorant of the issues involved. Should we demand housing at Volpe when it is much cheaper to build it on North Campus? Should we centralize student housing on West Campus or have it spread out across all of MIT? Should we be constructing faculty or student housing when MITIMCo’s commercial investments bring a lot of money to the Endowment, which we need? These tradeoffs are difficult to assess and as such require an informed set of faculty participants to weigh in on major decisions. How can we get more faculty input when the learning curve to understanding the issues is so steep? Or should we just let the Administration make these decisions on our behalf? We believe that faculty should be informed and represented.

Action: 1. CCP members will be available to give presentations on the key aspects of campus planning on an ongoing basis and prior to requests for faculty feedback.
2. We will also serve as faculty representatives so that there are educated faculty voices at the table.

Issue: There is no comprehensive planning process.

MIT does not have a comprehensive plan for the campus as a whole; campus development is based around sectors. Sector-based planning has evolved over time because it recognizes different parts of the campus have different functions (research, teaching, student life, administrative, services). The need to build dormitory space may be a priority on West Campus, while research space is needed on Central Campus, and with sector-based planning these decisions are somewhat decoupled. However, other MIT-wide needs such as parking, overall environmental and efficiency goals, and the allocation of scarce land resources, may not be as carefully coordinated.

Action: We plan to examine the pros and cons of sector versus comprehensive planning and then to make a recommendation. Thoughts welcome.

Issue: Do we have the correct allocation of space on campus?

The MIT physical plant is about 12 million square feet, 10 million of which is usable (not hallways, atria, bathrooms, etc.). Half is the Hotel, where our students live, dine, and exercise. Half of the rest, 2.5 million square feet, 20% of the total area, is services and administration, leaving about 2.5 million square feet for teaching and research – the part that matters the most to most faculty members. This allocation of space may seem like our “core” activities are being short-changed, but our teaching and research relies on the functioning of the whole campus complex to deliver healthy students to our classes and labs, make sure we get our travel reimbursements, provide a place to park our cars and all the other things that faculty assume happen as a consequence of nature.

Action: We will be asking you if you have adequate educational and research space and if not, what your greatest needs are.

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Issue: Is the high price of housing having an impact on our culture?

Real estate prices in Cambridge and Boston are soaring. While this means our land is worth more, it also means that housing is getting more and more expensive and faculty, staff, and students (like other Cambridge residents) are being pushed to live farther and farther away. Should MIT step in to address these housing needs? Right now housing assistance is given to faculty, but seems to be falling short of the mark. What will the rents be in the new graduate housing being built? Will our students be able to afford this kind of rent? These questions are not just academic ones, they are ones that speak to the very culture of MIT. If we start to lose students or faculty due to housing costs – what will this mean? Will our ability to get the world-class people we want on campus be compromised? What will it mean if students and faculty work more at home and stay on campus less?

Action: Further explore the impact of housing prices on culture and discuss with the Administration.

Faculty can usefully think about campus planning by following the broader evolution of MIT. The burgeoning campus is an expression of MIT’s accelerating aspirations to meet bigger and more lofty goals, bringing both new construction and renovation, but also a remedy to long deferred maintenance and a commitment to efficient buildings. Our greater aspirations require money, leading to more development by MITIMCo close to campus. Understanding the planned evolution of the campus requires an understanding of how MIT as a whole is evolving. Planned, ongoing, and completed campus projects are listed here:; and the Report to the President is presented annually:

The Faculty Committee on Campus Planning, CCP, is tasked to represent the faculty voice on the evolving campus plan. Let us know how we can better represent you.

Following this article will be future briefings on topics such as the Main group, parking, green space, academic space, and MITIMCo.

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