$24M donation breathes life into Ashdown

W1 to be named for donor Fariborz Maseeh ScD ’90

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Fariborz Maseeh ScD ’90 contributed $24 million to complete the construction in W1, which had stalled for lack of funds. Maseeh Hall is scheduled to open in fall of 2011 and will help expand MIT’s student population.
Greg Steinbrecher—The Tech

After a donation of $24 million from Fariborz Maseeh ScD ’90 in September 2010, Ashdown House (W1) will rise again as Maseeh Hall this fall. The new dorm space will allow the undergraduate population to grow by about 200 students over the next three years.

With its 462 beds — over 100 more than East Campus or Simmons — Maseeh will be the biggest undergraduate dorm on campus. Residents will live in single, double, and triple rooms on seven floors. Floors two through six will each have two apartments for Graduate Resident Tutors.

The Phoenix Group, a group of undergraduate students formed in 2008 to establish a culture for W1, will make up the primary student core of Maseeh. The Group has been living in the graduate dorm New Ashdown (NW35) for the past two and a half years. Phoenix Group residents are guaranteed a spot in Maseeh in the fall, along with Phoenix Group social members who do not live in NW35 but participate in community events. The housemasters who lived with the Group in NW35, Professor Suzanne Flynn of the Linguistics and Philosophy department and her husband Jack Carroll, will move to Maseeh to continue their roles as housemasters. A search for associate housemasters is underway.

Current students who wish to transfer into Maseeh must go through an application process. A short application which asks prospective residents what they will bring to Maseeh culture and why they want to live there went online last month. As Phoenix Group committee will select residents from these applications, which have applicants’ names, genders, and current dorms removed.

If applicants are not accepted by the committee, they may enter the April housing lottery to try to get into Maseeh. The class of 2015 and beyond will exclusively use the housing lottery to be assigned to Maseeh.

The dorm’s resident are expected to be about 40 percent freshmen and 60 percent upperclassmen. In the UA survey issued to current students last fall, 86 of the 655 respondents responded that they definitely wanted to live in Maseeh, while another 110 were considering it.

Maseeh will be participating in the new dining plan proposed for next year. The plan will cost about $4,900 for Maseeh residents and includes five breakfasts, five lunches, two brunches, and seven dinners. The 360-person dining hall will be the only cafeteria on campus open for lunch. In addition, there will be one common kitchen for resident use, with two stoves, two refrigerators, cabinet space, and an eating area.

Maseeh, who sees his contribution as a way of giving back to the Institute, considers himself “a production of the education and assistance that MIT had in place.” The intention of his gift was not intentionally to renovate W1, but to expand the MIT population.

W1 is “the most enabling part of this equation,” Maseeh said last fall.

The administration has wanted to increase the number of undergraduates from 4,300 to 4,500 for years. The population was around that level in the 1990s when freshmen were permitted to live in fraternities, but declined after the death of freshman fraternity pledge Scott S. Krueger ’01 in 1997, which led to the implementation of freshmen on-campus housing in 2002.