Cheney Room Reopens Following Renovations
McNair: “I’d love for students to use the space as more than just a study space” …“I want to shake it up a little and have it be that and more.”
The official reopening of the MIT Margaret Cheney Room (MCR), room 3-308, took place on Feb. 7, 2023 after closing for renovations in the summer of 2022. The reopening was marked by an open house hosted by the Women and Gender Services (WXGS).
The MCR has been a dedicated space for women’s needs since 1884. It is currently managed by Lauryn McNair (she/they), Assistant Dean of LBGTQ+, Women and Gender Services.
The open house was attended by over 150 of MIT’s students, staff and faculty. The event featured McNair, Chancellor Melissa Nobles and Provost Cynthia Barnhart PhD ‘88 as speakers and concluded with a performance by the MIT Muses.
The primary motivation for the room renovation was its age. “The Cheney Room hadn’t been updated in forever and was in need of a facelift to meet the new needs of students,” McNair said.
Additionally, the evolving needs of the students necessitated an upgraded space. McNair shared student interest in increased space, a virtual conference room, and new staff offices.
The MCR has four main areas following the overhaul: the WXGS office, a multi-purpose room, kitchen, and lounge suite. The fourth area is a lounge suite with a virtual conference room, an updated lactation/quiet room, and a student conference/study room.
Additional changes included switching out large lockers for 20+ new reservable lockers in the lounge suite and replacing the old piano with a hybrid one with new piano books. Another addition is the MCR library, which features both fiction and nonfiction selections for students to browse.
The space has also been made more ADA accessible; modifications include wider doorways, wheelchair-accessible sinks, and the removal of a half-step in the floor. Other replacements include the removal of a small shower (which has been replaced with available face wipes and dry shampoo) and two non-ADA-compliant bathroom stalls.
McNair is excited to see this new and improved MCR in use following the room’s official reopening.
“I’d love for students to use the space as more than just a study space,” McNair stated.…“I want to shake it up a little and have it be that and more.” McNair also highlighted their excitement regarding “more women’s student groups reserving the space.”
According to the WXGS website, about two to three events are scheduled per month in the room. “It's been great for students to know that we’re here and happy to chat with students or for them to come to us if they need support, just want to chat, or need help,” McNair stated.
Furthermore, the WXGS is continuing to develop and improve the MCR.
McNair emphasized the importance of handling gender inclusiveness appropriately within the space. “I want students to feel comfortable here whether you’re a trans woman, a cis woman, or a non-binary person,” said McNair.
Additionally, McNair highlighted their receptiveness to input from students who used the MCR. McNair said, “I don’t think there’s one way to do it but it does take a lot of work, community feedback, more work, getting things wrong and then learning from that.”
McNair said that WXGS is developing “both the physical space, the language we use, the programs we put on, the resources that we have” to ensure students are comfortable.
Students interested in learning more about the Margaret Cheney Room here.
WXGS can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.