Faculty push back against MIT 2030 in latest FNL
Too much discretion given to MITIMCo, faculty say, as needed space goes commercial
Faculty resistance to MIT 2030 is increasing.
MIT faculty have begun to push harder for involvement in a plan that allocates portions of the Institute’s real estate portfolio for commercial development. That plan, part of the MIT 2030 initiative, includes the new buildings MIT is building for Pfizer along Albany Street, and the multi-decade lease of 181 Massachusetts Avenue to Novartis where Novartis is building a new life sciences campus. It also includes the intention to build commercial real estate properties on the east side of campus in Kendall Square, and in the areas of campus east of Ames Street currently occupied by parking lots. These plans are managed by the MIT Investment Management Company, which was expected to submit a revised zoning proposal to the city in mid-May, though that has not yet happened.
The MIT faculty has been not been represented in this process and has not had a seat at the decision-making table. (The faculty have had input into other portions of the MIT 2030 plan through the Academic Council, such as the new nanomaterials research facility.) In December, an issue of the faculty newsletter was devoted to these concerns, but there was no significant evidence of further investigation.
May faculty meeting
At the May 16 faculty meeting, a group of nine faculty members, led by Professor Jonathon A. King (Biology), expressed concern and asked for formal faculty involvement:
“The eastern area of the campus adjoining Kendall Square is the only remaining land available for future educational, recreational, campus housing, and research facilities. The area to the west has been leased away for periods of 40-60 years.
Many faculty, staff and graduate students are concerned that the MITIMCo 2030 plan to develop this last remaining campus resource as commercial space will irreversibly limit and constrain MIT’s future development. This is the only space left for campus educational, recreational, housing, or research facilities. The Graduate Student Council has explicitly raised concerns over the absence of significance graduate housing in the MITIMCo plans.
The opportunity for faculty participation in the MITIMCo decision-making process has been very limited, even for our Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning colleagues. It is deeply disturbing that such far-reaching and long-lived urban development decisions should be made without the input of our own urban development authorities. The faculty does not have representatives on the MITIMCo Board. I also note that no MIT faculty have been appointed to either the Kendall Square Advisory Committees, or the Central Square Advisory committees.
We therefore request 20-30 minutes on the agenda of the September faculty meeting for presentations by concerned faculty and open discussion of the above issue. We are not talking about receiving another report, but in presentations from the many knowledgeable and involved faculty whose views have not been heard. Given the irreversible nature of the commercial leasing and construction, with half-century time lines, much open faculty discussion is a minimal step.”
The June issue of the Faculty Newsletter, published Wednesday, carried an editorial: “Save MIT Campus Land for Academic, Not Commercial, Uses.” The editorial noted the administration had provided a written response to concerns from the December issue, but found it wanting on four counts:
• Lack of “proper and critical input from MIT’s faculty, students, and staff.”
• Lack of attention to graduate student housing, as well as housing for staff, postdocs, and young faculty.
• No response to the concern that the development may violate prior agreements between the Institute, the city, and the federal government.
• Lack of analysis of the impact of increased automobile and transit trips.
Response to May Meeting
King said that Martin A. Schmidt PhD ’88 (associate provost for space), and Israel Ruiz SM ’01 (executive vice president and treasurer) are in the process of organizing meetings with faculty. But in King’s view, those meetings, which don’t invite presentation of alternative views, do not represent true consultation.
King also said that President-elect Rafael L. Reif had communicated to him a desire to meet with and listen to faculty concerned on this point.
He noted that he had not heard back from anyone about the request for time on the September meeting agenda.
(Chair of the Faculty Samuel M. Allen told The Tech that the faculty meeting agenda is generally set only about three weeks prior to the meeting, but that “Prof. King’s request is very much on my radar screen.”)
MITIMCo zoning proposal delayed?
MITIMCo had submitted a zoning proposal for changes to accommodate the MIT 2030 development last year, and that proposal was withdrawn. Last month, Sarah E. Gallop, MIT’s local government liaison, said they would be submitting a new proposal by mid-May, but that has not yet happened. The city’s Kendall-to-Central initiative is still ongoing, and its final report will not be available for several months.
Michael K. Owu ’86, director of real estate for MITIMCo said in an email yesterday that MIT had “not made a decision on when to file our zoning petition. We are continuing to engage with various stakeholders, listening to their perspectives, and are incorporating their input where possible.”