Two house managers leave MIT, interim managers chosen by administration

MIT lost two dorm house managers this month and has begun the process of replacing them. A campus official said that housemasters administrators, and students will be involved.

Random Hall’s house manager, Julie Gagnon, said in an email last month that she was making a personal decision to leave MIT. Residents at Next House also learned through email that their house manager, Jason Doucette, would not be returning after a three-week leave of absence. Director of Housing Dan Roderick, who sent the email on Feb. 6, did not disclose the reasons for Doucette’s departure in order to “protect the confidentiality of all parties concerned.”

Gagnon’s leave came after three and a half years at Random and 15 in total at MIT. Doucette had been employed at MIT for 7 years.

House managers typically work at a single dorm and are responsible for overseeing both custodial maintenance and repairs. They work closely with the rest of the house team, which includes the housemaster and area director.

Looking back, students in Next spoke favorably of their interactions with Doucette. “I was definitely really sad that he was not going to be here,” said Staly Chin ’15, who has lived in Next all four years he’s been at MIT. “Given how long he’s been here, he’s definitely built up a relationship with a lot of our organizations.”

Chin worked with Doucette on a variety dorm activities, including Next Haunt, Next Act, and Next Big Thing. He found Doucette to be “really chill” and responsive whenever they needed help with the facilities.

Antonio Moreno ’15, another Next resident, remembers once mentioning to Doucette that the bathrooms didn’t have trashcans. Three days later, there was a trashcan in every bathroom.

“He was very helpful and personable,” Moreno wrote in an email to The Tech. “In our opinion, he was a great house manager.”

Students were surprised to hear that Doucette would not be returning after his unexplained leave. They received the news at the same time as their housemaster and area director, according to Moreno.

To cover the house manager roles in Next and Random, MIT has chosen other dorms’ house managers to fill in. Nika Hollingsworth from Simmons Hall is helping cover Next, and Jon Nolan, who currently splits his time between Baker and McCormick, is adding Random to his list.

When choosing interim house managers, MIT administrators have to consider several factors, including the buildings’ sizes, their locations relative to the manager’s current house, and the “professional development opportunities” for the managers, according to Peter Cummings, director for administration in the Division of Student Life.

Simmons and Next, for example, are dorms in good condition with mostly routine issues to handle. “They just kind of hum along,” Cummings said. “We think Nika [Hollingsworth] is in a great position to take this on and do a real bang of a job of it.

Whenever a house manager needs to be replaced, Dan Roderick, director of MIT housing, leads the search for a new one. Along with Dean Henry J. Humphreys from the Division of Student Life, Roderick evaluates the feedback from the housemaster and staff to see if a full-time replacement is needed. At some point, input from the students in the dorm is considered as well, according to Cummings.

It’s unclear if Next or Random will receive new house managers or keep their interim ones instead.

In the past, house managers have not always been replaced with new hires. McCormick, for example, used to have their own manager until they switched to Nolan, who was already manager of several other dorms.

Nolan has stuck with McCormick and is now the interim house manager for Random as well. He’s expected to continue until at least this June.

Nolan has experience covering multiple dorms. In the past, he was house manager for four buildings. “He was able to handle the multiple buildings just because of who he was,” said Cummings.

“We don’t know if that’s going to be the case here,” said Cummings, suggesting that the current situation is unique. Next House is a larger dorm with its own dining hall, and possibly too big to be “co-handled” with its almost 350 residents. Random, on the other hand, has only 93 residents.

Cummings emphasized, however, that it is too early to speculate. Roderick and others first have to collect feedback on the current situation.

The one thing that Moreno and Chin made clear, though, is that Next students hope MIT considers a full-time manager for what they believe is a large dorm.

“I don’t think having a shared approach would be beneficial for either our dorm or the other dorm,” said Moreno. “We definitely need a full-time manager.”