A parent shares the results of her investigation into MIT’s participation in the Healthy Minds Study
To the editor:
In Spring of 2015, my son and about 1300 of his fellow undergraduates at MIT participated in a survey conducted by the Healthy Minds Study (HMS). When the final results of that survey were released one year later, the MIT administration took actions specifically focused on the residents of one dorm, Senior House, justifying it by mentioning survey data concerning mental health and substance use issues in the residence.
My son was dismayed to hear of the actions taken, since like other students he had believed the housing data gathered was based on the broad categories asked in the survey such as on or off campus housing, not by specific living group. Although, not living at Senior House, he was not directly impacted by the administrations actions, he stated that if he had known how the data would be used against fellow students he would never have participated.
Thousands of hours of student time were lost preparing for, attending, and following up on meetings that were part of the official Turnaround, Probation, and Readmission processes for Senior House, all of which failed. These failures can be attributed to poor leadership. The Turnaround process lacked clear goals, objectives, and evaluation criteria. The Probation process lacked clear goals, objectives, and evaluation criteria. The Readmission process had the vague goal of creating “a new community” but no clear evaluation criteria.
Latest E-mail from Chancellor Barnhart:
I wrote last month that significant change is needed in Senior House. President Reif, Provost Schmidt, Vice President Zuber, and I made that decision together.
The reaction from the Senior House community has reinforced our decision. The misinformation, denials, and responses – online, in emails, and in person – violate MIT values. We no longer believe that first-year and continuing students living in Senior House next year will be able to define for themselves their own community values and living experience.
This has led us to conclude that our plan to re-set the undergraduate experience in Senior House is unworkable. Senior House is now closed to undergraduates, and it will reopen in the fall to graduate students. We continue to stand by our responsibility for providing all MIT students with safe residential environments, and we intend to fulfill that obligation.
You recently received your alternate fall housing assignment. If you have any questions or concerns about dining, financial aid, work study or any other topic associated with moving, please do not hesitate to contact David Randall or Jennifer Hapgood-White at email@example.com.
UPDATE: Plans of repopulation abandoned: Senior House to become graduate housing (The Tech, July 13, 2017)
In the two weeks since we shared with Senior House students our plan for next year, I have received many messages from the MIT community, and stayed in regular contact with student leaders from Senior House, Dormcon, and the UA. I am listening, as I have tried to do throughout this entire process. And I am grateful to everyone for keeping the lines of communication open.
I’m writing because many of the concerns people are bringing to me are based on inaccurate information and a misunderstanding of what brought us to this point. What I find most troubling are the accusations that this is somehow intended as an attack on vulnerable populations or on students’ ability to self-govern. This decision is about one thing: providing every MIT student with a safe environment.
I want to be clear about a few more things…
UPDATE: Senior House residents respond to Chancellor Barnhart (The Tech, July 6, 2017)
All MIT Alumni are invited to add their name to an open letter to the MIT Administration in support of Senior House. Please share widely.
Residents say Senior House’s culture of care and free expression attracted large LGBT and minority populations, as well as lots of students who might not normally thrive at MIT. But administrators have decided its freewheeling attitude came with unacceptable risks. Students are protesting the school’s decision to shut it down. (Max Larkin/WBUR)
True to their promise, students from the Senior House dorm are continuing to protest changes being forced by Massachusetts Institute of Technology administrators. On Monday they prepared a sleep-in outside the president’s office, an escalation from the sit-in that took place Friday.
Students preparing to sleep-in outside @MIT President’s office to protest depopulation of Senior House. (via Mike Connolly)
The entire front page of this week’s The Tech is filled with stories about Senior House.
- What Pilot 2021 is: https://thetech.com/2017/06/18/pilot-2021
- Community responds to Pilot 2021: https://thetech.com/2017/06/18/community-responses-to-pilot-2021
- How Pilot 2021 came about: https://thetech.com/2017/06/18/senior-house-depopulation
- Mike Short’s piece: https://thetech.com/2017/06/18/mike-short-op-ed
- Student leaders respond to Pilot 2021 (UA/FSILG presidents): https://thetech.com/2017/06/18/student-leadership-letter-pilot-2021
- Why Pilot 2021 is everyone’s problem: https://thetech.com/2017/06/18/why-everyone-should-care-pilot-2021
- McCormick housemaster’s piece https://thetech.com/2017/06/18/raul-radovitzky-letter-senior-house
- Senior Haus needs to change: https://thetech.com/2017/06/18/pilot-2021-senior-haus-letter
The Senior House dorm known to generations of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students has art everywhere, cats roaming the halls and an eclectic assortment of students who may be low-income, first-generation, black, Asian or Latinx or LGBTQI. Its residents will tell you that – despite winning a Laya and Jerome B. Wiesner Student Art Award in 2013 for the omnipresent murals, dating back to the 1990s and including a recent work by famed artist Shantell Martin – what the 100-year-old dorm is actually most famous for is the way residents support each other. [READ MORE]
State Rep. Mike Connolly speaks Friday in support of a student sit-in against changes to the Senior House dorm at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Photo: Mike Connolly)