New Vassar opening delayed, BC may remain open for a semester

Potential delay of renovations is “simultaneously happy news and stressful news” for BC residents

Because the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the construction of the New Vassar residence hall, Burton Conner will likely remain open if undergraduates return to campus in the fall.

Previously, BC was scheduled to close for renovations this June and reopen under Tier 1 pricing August 2022. New Vassar was slated to open this August.

Cambridge issued a temporary construction moratorium to “mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and safeguard the health of construction workers” March 18, according to the City of Cambridge website

As a result, BC will likely “remain open to house the 350 or so students” if students return in the fall, BC President Sarah Aaronson ’23 wrote in an email to The Tech.

In this scenario, New Vassar construction would likely continue through the fall and be completed by Spring 2021. Aaronson wrote that Housing and Residential Services (HRS) is “considering” moving students out of BC for renovations at that time because HRS “doesn’t want to maintain an empty building or two semi-occupied buildings.”

Aaronson wrote that the potential delay of renovations is “simultaneously happy news and stressful news for current BC residents.” Some BC residents have already made arrangements to live in other dorms or FSILGs; others have signed leases for off-campus apartments, Aaronson explained.

Many of these residents would be unable to move back into BC “unless MIT helps students cancel leases and works with Panhel, the IFC, and the ILG Council to smoothly give up their spots in that housing,” Aaronson wrote. 

All BC residents would still have to search for alternate housing options for Spring 2021, even if it remains open for the fall.

Aaronson wrote that several admitted students on the CP★ Discord server expressed interest in BC, but it would be “quite abrupt” for incoming first years to live in the dorm for only one semester. However, current first years “spent only roughly that same amount of time in BC and still loved it,” Aaronson wrote.

If the fall semester is conducted virtually or canceled, HRS hopes to begin the planned BC renovation “because they believe having construction… is more likely to be a possibility than moving everyone into dorms,” Aaronson wrote.

Aaronson wrote that she was informed of the possibility BC will remain open at the Dormitory Council meeting April 9. The following week, she “confirmed and talked through the different scenarios” with David Friedrich, HRS senior associate dean, and Mary Linan, HRS manager of special initiatives. 

The BC transition team plans to virtually meet with more HRS representatives in the coming weeks, Aaronson wrote.

Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson wrote in an email to The Tech that “until we know more about the virus’s trajectory as well as the next steps with the City of Cambridge’s construction moratorium… it is premature to predict what will happen” with BC and New Vassar.

Nelson wrote that “MIT leadership is considering several scenarios, all of which will affect fall housing to some degree.” 

Despite the uncertainty of whether students will return to campus for the fall semester, DSL plans to “proceed with the housing assignment process so incoming upper-level students can connect with new students,” Nelson wrote, adding that DSL will “work with student leaders, heads of house, and key stakeholders to make the fall go as smoothly as possible.”