Summer residents displaced by Random fire

Displaced students relocated to New House

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Random Hall's roof caught fire on June 21, 2016, displacing the summer residents of the dorm.
Courtesy of Harold Mellor

A fire caused significant damage to the Random Hall roofdeck on June 21 and students were relocated to New House after a brief stay in Next House. As of press time, the Cambridge Fire Department had not yet officially determined the cause of the fire.

Repairs will be made to the roof as well as parts of the building that were damaged by water and smoke. “Drop-ceilings and carpeting will be replaced in damaged areas, and walls will be patched and painted where necessary,” Matthew Bauer, Special Assistant to the Dean in DSL, said in an email to The Tech.

Repairs are planned to be completed mid-August and Random will be open again by fall.

It is not yet clear what will happen to Random’s roofdeck. “Before any action can be taken on restoring or replacing the roofdeck, the City of Cambridge must weigh in on the plans,” Bauer said.

Buildings in Cambridge are no longer allowed to have roofdecks, so Random’s roofdeck is grandfathered in.

Residents expressed concern about how much MIT can spend before it is required to bring the entire building up to disability code. However, officials from DSL explained the difference between remediation and renovation. The former, which is what will happen at Random, is simply repairing damage from causes such as fire or storms. The latter, which would necessitate a whole-building update if MIT wanted to spend over a certain threshold, involves making improvements to the building.

Timeline of events

The fire was reported at 3:03 p.m. that Tuesday afternoon. The Cambridge Fire Department responded and residents were quickly evacuated.

On the evening of June 21, residents gathered in Sidney-Pacific for food and announcements. Starting at 6:30 p.m., small groups were allowed back into Random for 10 minutes each to gather things for the night.

Residents were housed in Next House that night and were provided with sheets and towels.

The next day, residents moved to New House and were again allowed into Random in the evening to gather additional personal items.

Random Hall was opened to residents only on June 23 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents were told to pack in moving boxes only the things they would need for the next few weeks, with the exception of those whose rooms were directly affected by fire or water damage, who were told they had to pack up everything in their rooms.

These affected rooms included back rooms on all the floors of the 282 side of the dorm — Bonfire, Clam, Loop, and Destiny. The top floor, Bonfire, was the most affected, with damage in at least five of the twelve rooms on the floor.

On Friday, June 24, Olympia Movers, the same company that helped move New House residents back to New House from the Hyatt in January, moved all the items packed and labelled by Random residents to New House.

Displaced residents adapt to New House

Random resident Katie N. Sedlar ’17 has a number of positive feelings about the situation. She thinks DSL did “a pretty reasonable job” helping Random residents move and making sure floors from Random ended up together in New House, among other things.

She knows, however, that the move was a “hassle” for people with full-time jobs. She also misses seeing the cats, who are confined to their owners’ rooms for the stay in New House. She will be “very disappointed” if Random isn’t open in the fall.

A few nights after the move, residents built a box fort with all the moving boxes and held a Nerf gun fight. Sedlar, who helped organize the event, said it was “the highlight of this whole incident” for her.

Amidst adjusting to a new place, with new kitchen conflicts, different laundry machines, clogged shower drains, and missing paper towels, relocated Random residents are trying to stay optimistic. They even suggested that their new residence be called “New Random.”

Sedlar remarked on the way the move has “brought people together.”

Another resident, Katie V. Mathison ’19, said, “Even though we’re in New House, it still feels like Random. Even though we’re in a new place, some things never change.”