Statement on Senior House, 06/26/2017
Living in Senior House, I got to know a community and culture that has been developing for a century, and in its continued evolution provides a support network critical to students’ success at MIT. Senior House residents are brilliant and freethinking, and have a better experience at MIT for the welcoming environment. In this multi-generational community many residents find – some for the first time – what feels like home.
I lived in Senior House as a graduate mentor, where I would normally reside for the summer and help integrate undergraduate students returning to campus in the fall. Last Monday, I and the other graduate residents were evicted with 48 hours notice. Now, police and security personnel guard an empty building, whose past residents valued openness and diversity. Murals that have adorned the walls for decades are being whitewashed.
We are experiencing a heavy-handed and disproportionate response from the MIT administration that does not prioritize student safety or support. This effort, undertaken while students are away from campus for the summer, also eradicates a unique part of campus culture and restructures a new community from the top down, indicating a worrisome erosion of student agency at MIT.
As someone who was hired to support this community, I see this as an administrative failure to support some of the most vulnerable and stigmatized members of MIT. These students present the institute with a challenge, and one not unique to MIT: how do we build a platform for the historically marginalized to define their own success in a rigorous academic environment, craft their own system of values, and learn to support themselves and each other? Such issues will accompany these students to wherever they reside on campus, so long as the institute continues to admit them. Senior House provided a community-driven solution, a work in progress engineered from the bottom up. This summer, MIT decided to dismantle that solution and a century of history: cleaning house by taking the challenge and sweeping it under the rug.