The Corporation’s plans for Kendall would harm the undergraduate experience

We appreciated The Tech’s recent coverage of the presentation of MITIMCo’s upzoning petition for MIT’s East Campus at the Cambridge Planning Board (http://tech.mit.edu/V133/N6/kendall.html). Unfortunately, the aspect of this large project with the most impact on undergraduates has not been addressed. The construction of two large commercial office towers in the heart of the East campus will bring thousands of new employees to the campus everyday. These employees will not be MIT students, staff, or faculty, and will have little or no connection to the educational and research missions of MIT. Their commitments to their own career goals, and to the business plans of their employers, are more likely to clog our streets, crowd our campus, and lengthen our lunch lines rather than enrich the students’ college experience.

Intellectual productivity of MIT and all research universities depends on the free exchange of information within densely populated university communities. That is why almost all major research universities are residential campuses. The high tech industry with its emphasis on intellectual property and proprietary information, on the other hand, generally restricts its employees from speaking openly about their work. Bringing this slice of the commercial sector into the heart of the campus will dampen the intellectual ferment at MIT, not increase it. There are no shortage of commercial firms just across the street in Kendall Square for students eager to benefit from such contacts.

The pressing need at MIT is for additional on campus housing to provide for some of the 4,000 graduate students who have to secure increasingly expensive housing off campus. Building graduate student housing in East campus would alleviate this problem and enrich the educational and research environment at MIT.

This MITIMCo project is the unfortunate outcome of allowing real estate developers to manage our campus planning. MIT has no campus planning committee representing the interests of students, staff and faculty. Delegating campus planning to real estate executives who lack experience with, knowledge of, or commitment to MIT’s educational, scientific and technological missions has resulted in the current proposal. Although a faculty forum on this issue has just been announced for March 18, for one hour from 5 to 6 p.m., as of the writing of this letter the MITIMCo proposal has never been presented at a regular faculty meeting, and opportunities for faculty discussion, debate, or alternative formulations have been very limited.

Jonathan A. King is a professor in the biology department and chair of the Faculty Newsletter editorial board.

Ruth Perry is a professor in the department of literature.