Burton Conner residents concerned about dorm renewal

BC Exec was notified of renewal two hours before residents

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Burton Conner will be closed for renewal from June 2020 to August 2022.
Kevin Ly–The Tech

Burton Conner residents are concerned that their dorm will lose its culture during its two-year renewal from June 2020 to August 2022. All residents will be required to move out during this time period. 

“At this point, BC Exec has just been listening to what admins have said and trying to ask questions that residents will also have. So I think most of [the change] has just been imposed thus far,” Alice Zhang ’21, Burton Conner president, said in an interview with The Tech.

BC Exec was not involved in formulating the move-out process, including the decision that students would move out in groups of eight, Zhang said. She noted that eight is already the maximum number of students that can apply to move in a group in the current housing switch lottery.

According to Zhang, BC Exec was notified of the decisions two hours before BC residents were informed.

The Division of Student Life and BC Exec will work together this spring to assemble a transition team to identify student needs, provide input on the renewal of Burton Conner, and work through the logistics of relocating students, according to an FAQ document sent to BC residents.

In order to support residents, the administration has agreed to allow BC GRTs and Heads of House to continue to support the community and give BC leaders standing in the UA and DormCon during the renewal, according to the FAQ. The administration will also work with the transition team to develop community events.

“For the students who are going to go through this transition, two years is a very important piece of [their] experience at MIT, and so we don’t want [them] to feel like [they’re] in transition,” BC Head of House Janelle Knox-Hayes said at a BC community meeting the day after the renewal was announced.

The policies differ from those given to students in New House, who could apply to move with larger groups of people when New House was renovated. “Admin will always say that that was because they were in a crunch for New House and the pipes burst; it wasn’t a planned renovation,” Zhang said. In contrast, BC will have had 1.5 academic years to plan their transition.

Peter Williams ’21, a B3 (Burton third) resident, told The Tech in an interview that the administration could help preserve BC’s culture by allowing residents to move together to New Vassar and then back to BC after it reopens.

New Vassar is set to open in fall 2020. Some BC residents will be able to move to New Vassar, but not as one dorm-wide group. The FAQ emphasized that New Vassar is not intended to serve as a “swing dorm” for displaced students, as that would interfere with the dorm’s development of its own identity and culture. 

The administration is “prioritizing a need to create new cultures, because I honestly think they don’t want these ones — which is fine — but I just don’t like the lack of honesty about it,” Williams said.

Some residents are concerned about the loss of unique features of BC, such as suite style living. However, Senior Associate Dean of Housing and Residential Services David Friedrich said at the community meeting last Thursday, “There are — I think — certain restrictions in how [BC is] just laid out that we’re more likely than not to have suites in it” after the renewal. 

Residents are also concerned that BC post-renewal may not allow murals painted directly on walls. According to Friedrich, the administration will look at ways to support creativity “when we’re in a newly repaired and improved building where we want to make sure we’re being good stewards of the facility.”

The DSL is “not really doing much at all to help the students from Burton Conner preserve their communities,” Wilson Spearman ’22, a resident of C2 (Conner two), told The Tech in an interview. “The DSL will make decisions, listen to students afterwards, and then not change the decision that they made based on the students’ input,” he said.

Anna Kooperberg ’21, a B4 (Burton four) resident, told The Tech that she thought that the administration does “care about students,” but that its different priorities sometimes conflict.

Austin Edelman ’21, a B2 (Burton two) resident, told The Tech that he thought that the renewal was “sad but necessary.”

The Office of Campus Planning and Department of Facilities anticipate having an update on the scope of the work in the fall, Director of the Office of Campus Planning Jon Alvarez wrote in an email sent to The Tech.

The work could include updates to the roof, facade, mechanical and electrical systems, and plumbing, Friedrich told The Tech in an interview.