G. Anthony Grant becomes new DAPER head

MIT gymnastics club to remain in DuPont, planned semi-permanent structure to serve as weight room for varsity athletes

G. Anthony Grant became head of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) Feb. 1. Furthermore, the DAPER Space Utilization Working Group has decided that the MIT club gymnastics team will retain its facility in the DuPont Athletic Center while a “semi-permanent” structure will be built next to the J.B. Carr Tennis Bubble to serve as a weight room for varsity athletes.

Grant said in an interview with The Tech that Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 and Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson have approved the semi-permanent structure building project.

The timeframe for the project will be “based off of our fundraising efforts, so there’s not a specific date at this point to determine when we’ll break ground,” Grant said. The gymnastics club and varsity athletes are to remain in their current locations “until the semi-permanent structure project has concluded.”

Additionally, the semi-permanent structure may serve as an auxiliary meeting space for other Institute needs, “so the scope [of the project] could change,” according to Grant.

John DiFava, chief of MIT Police, chaired the working group. The working group also consisted of “other DAPER staff,” “students,” and “personnel,” Grant said, adding that the working group took its task “very seriously.”

Ken Johnson, DAPER director of communications, promoting, and marketing, said in an interview with The Tech that he would “imagine” that the decision process was “very inclusive… especially because of the number of students it impacts.”

“Obviously there is a need for enhanced space for our varsity student athletes to train in preparation for their respective seasons,” Grant told The Tech, “but there’s also a very real concern about the potential displacement of the gymnastics program.”

Julie Soriero, former head of DAPER, created the committee to conclude its work before her retirement, so Grant did not partake in committee activities.

DAPER’s “main priority” in regards to its response to COVID-19 is to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff. These goals coincide “with the events over the last week of de-densifying the campus,” Grant said. Closing the Z Center was “in alignment” with Institute, CDC, and federal guidelines “as it pertains to social distancing.”

Grant said that students should stay safe and “take care of one another.”

Grant said that DAPER has “a very unique opportunity to be a key contributor to enhancing the overall sense of health and well-being across the Institute” and is committed “to serve not only our varsity student athletes but all of the students across campus.”

Grant said that in his new role as head of DAPER, it is “important” to meet people, including internal and external constituents. “Meeting the alums and donors and other supporters would be extremely important,” Grant said.

“We also need to ensure that we are providing an environment where all other departments within DAPER, in addition to varsity athletics, continue to move forward,” Grant said, adding that “if we don’t look for ways to improve, then we’re going to regress.”

Grant said that DAPER has “outstanding” staff and that he wants to ensure “folks enjoy coming into work every day” with an environment that is “positive,” “challenging,” and “provides professional development to staff.”

DAPER’s focus “is to provide the best service that we can for as many populations as possible,” Grant said, emphasizing that DAPER “will continue to be inclusive with the manner in which we conduct our business.”

Grant was previously director of athletics at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he helped “develop a three-year strategic plan that set the department’s future direction,” according to MIT News.