Some notes about the end of the old Ashdown

I'm sure you're familiar with Ashdown House - you know, building W1? The grad dorm? Right next to McCormick? In that picture above?

You know, oldest graduate dorm at MIT, in the building that's hosted graduate students since 1938? The one with a very long, illustrious, and well-documented history of community - rare among graduate dorms?

No? Oh, that must be because MIT decided in 2006 to vacate it and fill the building with undergrads. It was a sudden announcement - they hadn't consulted with the residents or even the housemaster - before the decision was made to build a new grad dorm nearer to SidPac and move the Ashdown residents there.

This wasn't the first time making W1 an undergrad dorm had been proposed - a proposal to swap EC and SH with Ashdown and Next was defeated in 1980, and then again in 1994, and it was well-known that it was A Thing The Administration Wanted To Do. In fact, in the 2005 GSC elections, one of the questions for the presidential candidates was: "If the administration announces Ashdown House will be converted to undergraduate housing what would be your response?”

So although the announcement did came as a shock to all the Ashdown residents, most of the surprise and energy was not focused on the decision to move, but on the design of the new Ashdown - building NW35 - and specifically the rushed timeline for designing it and the somewhat-rectified lack of student involvement in its planning.

I think it's interesting to see how the conversations about W1 started shaping up, as the undergrads started to realize that they, too, should be getting involved. We all know what eventually happened - it became Maseeh (and one of our active projects as UA History is to explore how that progressed!) - but back then, the talk was that it would be used as a swing dorm as East Campus and Burton-Conner receive their badly-needed renovations. MIT was ready to pour a lot of money into changing around the undergraduate dorm experience, and some major rethinking was possibly coming. (Those of you who are plugged into talk about the Metro Rage Warehouse might find this familiar.)

Here's a Tech article about the undergraduate side of the changes. Here's an editorial from the Dormcon President saying that choice is an important part of the MIT housing system. (It's really unclear to me why that was written; it doesn't seem to relate to any current events or conversations of the time, but maybe there was some secret discussions I don't know about.)

Here's a Tech op-ed from a member of the Simmons Founder's Group and a former Dormcon president, with the inspiring final paragraph:

One of the things I’ve continually heard in the discussion on housing is that students want to “have a say” in the outcome. If the experience of being involved with MIT housing has taught me anything, it’s that no one “gives” you a say in anything. If you want to have a say, you need to speak up. You need to speak loudly, to the right audience. You need to be persistent, but willing to negotiate and compromise. You also need to have a vision for what you want — not just what you don’t want — and you need to take some responsibility for making it happen. If you pass up this responsibility, then the administration answers the important questions for you.

And lastly, from the editorial board of The Tech:

A pivotal moment in student life at MIT is upon us.
Solving these problems requires major construction that will displace students from up to five dormitories over ten years.
Students can successfully contribute to and lead the coming changes, if they are kept well-informed and if administrators consider their views before decisions are made. Understandably, many administrators prefer to keep their plans quiet until they have mapped out their preferred route.
Together, students and administrators can address some of the long-standing problems of campus life.

The right first step is creating a transparent public discussion.

And I only really looked through a month or so of articles, so I don't know how the story continues. Anyone have friends from spring 2006?

We have a meeting on Monday afternoon! 6pm in the UA office!


P.S. Anyone in Burton-Conner have documents or links relating to the 1960's renovations-induced-exile that y'all can share and point us to?