Murals and bar area removed on Burton Third amid new renovations

New wall paintings to adhere to MIT Mind and Hand book

This summer, the third floor of the Burton side of the Burton-Conner dormitory, also known as Burton Third, saw renovations that included painting over murals and dismantling the bar area. Like two other floors which had similar renovations completed in last summer, Burton Third received new paint, had its walls repaired, and floor tiles replaced.

Burton Third residents, known for their parties, were informed of the changes this past spring by House Manager Ken Donaghey, according to Burton-Conner housemasters Anne E. C. McCants. The McCants not only emailed students, but also hosted a dinner for them in the Burton Third lounge to tell the students about the summer changes.

Some students dispute the level of transparency in communication. “For the bar, we were never told that anything was going to be done. We actually got an email from our house manager about some rooms were going to be painted over, but again, nothing about murals,” said Chyleigh Harmon ’14, a former resident of Burton Third.

In an email to The Tech, McCants said that the bar needed to be removed because the new flooring in the lounge. The murals contained alcohol-related and “offensive” images, according to Senior Associate Dean for Student Life Henry Humphreys.

Regardless, the prevailing sentiment is that the culture of the floor will never be the same. “It’s part of the floor culture, having those murals,” said Harmon. The bar is also not insignificant. Many alumni saved numerous beer bottles in the bar area, which were not kept when the bar was disassembled. According to Harmon, Burton Third plans to involve incoming freshmen in painting new murals. In addition, they also plan to rebuild the bar, but are unsure of the time line. “I definitely think some senior MechE majors would be interested in fixing it up,” remarked Harmon. The floor chairs, Zachary Brooks ’15 and Max Kanter ’15, declined to comment on Burton Third’s plans.

However, the process of repainting and rebuilding requires several levels of approval. The McCants “felt that some of the murals did not meet the standards of the Institute and that the bar was not appropriate,” according to Humphreys. Any new murals proposed on the floor must be approved by the housemasters, area director, and house manager. Designs must be in accordance with the MIT Mind and Hand Book, which relegates alcohol consumption to individual dormitory rooms and not in common areas. “Approved wall art, etc., in the dorm will be consistent with this policy,” wrote McCants.

Although students are entitled to freedom of expression in the Mind and Hand Book, they must also be aware of the Institute’s harassment and hazing polices when designing their murals. The previous murals were “promoting drinking in an environment where most students are underage,” said Humphreys. Despite the rules, Humphreys is confident that the housemasters “are willing to move forward with Burton Third so that they reflect the positive aspects of the community.”

Anonymous over 10 years ago

"Regardless, the prevailing sentiment is that the culture of the floor will never be the same."

Oh for god's sake. If paint can destroy your culture, then your culture sucks.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

1 then clearly you've never lived in a community like theirs

Fish over 10 years ago

1 try painting over all of any societies artworks and see how they feel. In a dorm, the rapid turnover rate means that objects with permanence are of extreme value for culture; since people won't be around in five years, the only way they can contribute to the future is through, among other things, murals.

Though my opening example was a little extreme, MIT dorms are microcosms for the development of culture in societies everywhere. We hold our history very dear, and wouldn't have it any other way.

If you think removing works of art with historical significance (and a high entertainment value) is trivial, just go home.

charlesg over 10 years ago

"move forward"

these words, i do not think they mean what you think they mean.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

This is horrible. Dean Humphreys and Colombo are trying to destroy MIT student culture. Underage drinking is "offensive"? That is absurd.

MIT's mission is to break down barriers and innovate in science and technology to improve the world. That is not possible in a culture where people need to get approval to paint on their wall and expressions of alternative culture are censored. Humphreys is doing a huge disservice to the MIT community. This kind of leadership might be fine at a conservative Catholic school like Boston College but not MIT.

From MIT's identity team when creating the new logo (

MIT's strengths

uncompromising devotion to excellence

problem-solving ability

global impact






academic and cultural diversity

innovation and creativity


courage and risk taking

Anonymous over 10 years ago

5. Underage drinking is also a crime, let's not forget about that.

If you believe that underage drinking is a sign of strength, meritocracy, and courage; I cannot help you there. Look at all the suicides, rapes, murders, and other felonies that occur with the influence of alcohol. MIT's mission is not to break down barriers, but to ask why they exist. In the middle of winter, go for a swim, then tell me why there is a barrier to the Charles, called a handrail. Tell me why there is a barrier to serving in the military under age 17. Tell me why there is a barrier there when you chose to have sex, but don't want a child.

If you break all those barriers, there is nothing anyone can do to help you. That is the reason we have jails, and those have barriers too; both to get in and out.

As for murals, that is entirely related to mental health. If you saw a picture of a woman/man being raped on a day to day basis, what impact would that have on a person's perception of rape. Is the person being raped smiling, or are they crying? How much does that answer impact your perception of rape? Is she/he crying from joy, or from a loss of hope, a loss of self, a loss of self-worth? Look at the police summary for 2011-2012 on the MIT web site, and you will realize these statements are not without merit. People are forcibly raped even here at MIT. If you can prevent even one from happening by removing murals and paintings, that is worth every bit of energy that was put in to remove that possibility.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

6. But to my knowledge, the murals were of a commercially-available product that's free to purchase and consumption of a subset of the members of the hall, not of a violent and offensive crime. Your argument relies on the basis of all crimes being equal in severity, which is simply not true. A shoplifter is not as bad in the eyes of the law as a bank thief, nor an underage drinker as punishable as a rapist. Drawing analogies to sexual assault is nothing but invoking Godwin's rapist law, and unnecessarily demonizes a very, very large percentage of the undergraduate population.

Barriers do exist for a reason, to protect us or protect others. But a rope on a post isn't going to keep frisbee players off the grass in Killian as well as a 10-foot tall concrete fence. 5 argues that it's our job here at MIT to question why these barriers exist in the first place and circumvent them if we feel that they protect nothing or no one. The new changes in the mural program serve no purpose but to put barriers in the way of people painting, who are they protecting?

Anonymous over 10 years ago

5: Unfounded accusations that the administration is trying to "destroy student culture" really hurt your side of the argument by showing that your opinion is entirely emotional.

Here's a much more sane conclusion: MIT wants to let students (including those under 21) drink. But having a bar in a public space and having alcohol murals all over the place makes it impossible for them to look the other way. If a freshman kills himself via alcohol poisoning, how can MIT claim they knew nothing about it and don't condone underage drinking if there's a bar in the lounge?

Anonymous over 10 years ago

1 here.

2: You're right, I didn't. I lived in a community strong enough that just painting over the walls wouldn't destroy it.

3: I've seen those murals. It's pathetic if those murals represented any significant portion of the Burton Third culture. Absolutely pathetic.

John Smith over 10 years ago

I think it is time that we, as students, convinced Mr. Humphreys to go elsewhere to promote his ideas of a positive community.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

So any artistic expression that depicts alcohol consumption is no longer allowed in an undergraduate environment?

The censors have a lot of work to do. I'll get them started:

We are, we are, we are, we are, we are the Engineers

We can, we can, we can, we can, demolish forty caffeine-free diet Cokes

Drink Snapple, drink Snapple, drink Snappleall day and come along with us.

For we don't give a damn for any old man who don't give a damn for us!

Anonymous over 10 years ago

11. I don't think the fight song is official, much less the lyrics. And they're not painted on the wall inside a dorm.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

12: Way to miss the point.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

Anybody familiar with this situation knows that the murals and bar are just the tip of the iceberg. The question really is whether the new housemasters and MIT are going to stop the hazing which has gone on forever on this floor.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

If hazing is a problem on Burton Third, the dean should be communicating with the residents of Burton Third. Anything else is insulting.