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New student lounge dedicated

President Hockfield welcomes students to the new lounge near Lobby 10.
President Hockfield welcomes students to the new lounge near Lobby 10.
Photo / Donna Coveney

With musicians providing an appropriate lounge-music soundtrack, students, faculty and staff lingered last Friday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the new community lounge, located off the Infinite Corridor near Lobby 10. The space was formerly occupied by the cashier's office.

President Susan Hockfield and Chancellor Phillip Clay each spoke briefly during the Sept. 15 dedication ceremony.

Hockfield praised the lounge's location, describing it as "at the very heart of the MIT campus," and encouraged students to use the lounge as a meeting place and to share ideas.

"The quantity of great ideas that come out of here is directly proportional to how often we run into each other," Hockfield said.

The space is meant to be an impromptu social gathering space. Green couches form a figure eight so that people can face one another; sunlight streams through giant windows overlooking Killian Court. More windows on the back wall provide a view of the Infinite Corridor.

The idea for the lounge started germinating in late 2004 when a committee formed to look at the cashier's space noted that there "should be something to support the community," said Phillip Walsh, director of the campus activities complex.

"We wanted a lounge that was very bright and open and had a view of the river and Killian Court," Walsh said. The Class of 2005 made the lounge its senior class gift. There is a plaque to the left of the lounge entrance thanking the class for its generosity.

"It is a gift that will leave a lasting impression on the MIT community," Hockfield said, acknowledging the Class of 2005 and its generosity.

A small controversy arose last year when some students expressed concern over the floor-to-ceiling mural of a U.S. one-dollar bill that once covered the outside of the cashier's office.

The student-created mural was painted during the Vietnam War when students were offered the opportunity to change dull points on the hallways. Although there were other murals, the dollar bill was the most visible to the whole community.

Over the years, it became a sentimental part of the campus as well as the scene of the first "hack" on President Hockfield when hackers replaced George Washington's face on the mural with Hockfield's.

In order to preserve the integrity of the memory, an etching of the dollar bill remains in one of the panels of glass between the Infinite Corridor and the lounge. There is also a detailed history of the dollar bill and its part in MIT's history.

In his short talk, Chancellor Clay linked the dollar bill mural to the Class of 2005's gift, stating: "The original spirit of student participation in shaping spaces was not lost in this generation."

The community lounge is now open for use 24 hours a day.

Other campus changes include the revamped reading room in the Student Center, which now features 6,000 square feet of space for students to gather, work independently or study collaboratively. The new study space opened on Sept. 1.

Also new this year is the full-menu Dunkin' Donuts on the first floor of the Student Center, which opened in late August.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 20, 2006 (download PDF).

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