Current students and community members respond
Administration decides to resettle Senior House residents, citing “unhealthy behavior” during last year’s turnaround period
Senior House will be mostly depopulated, and will instead house students in Pilot 2021, a new program for freshmen focused on “academics, personal development, and wellbeing.” Current residents will need to go through a “selective” application process in order to live in the dorm next year.
Students protested MIT’s decision to “depopulate Senior House” Friday. The protest started with a sign-making session in Lobby 7, followed by a march to the chancellor’s office where various protesters spoke.
Several New House houses were offered the chance to move into Senior House last week – including iHouse, Desmond, and La Casa.
I’m writing because many of the concerns people are bringing to me are based on inaccurate information and a misunderstanding of what brought us to this point. What I find most troubling are the accusations that this is somehow intended as an attack on vulnerable populations or on students’ ability to self-govern. This decision is about one thing: providing every MIT student with a safe environment.
The punishment being implemented by the MIT Chancellor and President goes far beyond individual accountability, or the desire to eliminate drug use in the dorm. Allegations of widely tolerated drug use were made by the chancellor, but prior to the investigation, very few students were aware of the events that have now been punished by the COD.
The MIT Administration has announced its inauguration of an experiment on human subjects called "Pilot 2021." They have not yet published the hypothesis they are attempting to test with this experiment. I offer my own hypothesis in the sincere hope that it will be disproved:
As the presidents of MIT’s three undergraduate LGBTQ organizations, we feel compelled to advocate against the dispersion of one of MIT’s largest LGBTQ communities and the destruction of one of its vibrant queer-affirming spaces that has existed for decades in Senior House.
When I visited MIT during CPW, I was confused by the students’ usage of the word “culture,” especially with respect to dorms. To me, a dorm was nothing more than a residence, a space where there were twin size beds your feet would hang off the end of, where you wore slippers in the showers. I especially did not understand places like East Campus and Senior House, where there were murals and dyed hair and loud music blaring in the courtyard. These people all seemed to be trying too hard to be scary and weird (and it worked, I was pretty scared), and I had simply wanted to live somewhere clean and mildly friendly. Whatever this “culture” thing entailed, I did not want to be a part of it. I ended up living in Next for all four years of MIT; I lived there because it seemed clean and mildly friendly.
My name is Mike Short (’05, PhD ’10), and I'm an assistant professor in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. I'm one of relatively few to have both lived at Senior House and joined the faculty or staff at MIT, and I'm the faculty member serving on the Academic and Well-Being subcommittee of the Senior House Turnaround Team. I therefore would like to offer a unique perspective on the Senior House Turnaround Team and the recently announced Pilot 2021 program.
Last week, Chancellor Barnhart told The Tech that “MIT students” would be housed in Senior House this Fall, but could make no guarantees beyond this vague statement. Below this article on The Tech homepage was a story about the large decline in senior gift donations this academic year, fueled by student frustrations over a lack of transparency and student input in recent student life decisions at the Institute. With the revelation of this newest closed-door decision, it seems clear that MIT has yet to abandon this trend of limited student engagement that may further exacerbate the course of declining donation rates.