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The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is in its first year of operation, and like all growing institutions, it is experiencing growing pains. At a recent meeting, Radcliffe administrators met with graduate students to talk about plans for converting the Cronkhite Center into office space for the Institute. As could be expected, the graduate students were none too pleased about the plans, which would convert approximately 70 dorm rooms into office space, forcing many of the 141 residents out into an already tight housing market.
But despite the students' legitimate concerns about housing, the plan is necessary for the Institute's development and growth. As the Institute's Director for Facilities, Administrative and Technology Services John O. Horst said, "The priorities of the Institute are higher than housing students, especially students that are not the Institute's."
The conversion of Cronkhite into office space is part of a larger move to centralize the Institute around Radcliffe Yard. The Admissions and Financial Aid Office is expected to vacate Byerly Hall in 2006 and Harvard's official guarantee of access to Agassiz expires in 2004. What graduate students may see as a personal affront is merely the necessary conversion of Radcliffe's space to fit the Institute's needs. Extraneous and unaffiliated users of Radcliffe's space hinder the new Institute's mission to become a center for advanced study.
The expected growth of the Institute's faculty, fellows and researchers means that the Institute will need to use all the space that Radcliffe has at its disposal. And in order to become the preeminent institution it hopes to be, the Institute must be able to attract all these people with housing and office space.
However, another space consideration comes to mind when speaking about Radcliffe Yard, and that is the Agassiz theater. Like Cronkhite, Agassiz belongs to the new Institute, which may need the theater space for its events. However, unlike housing, the Agassiz can be used interchangeably by the Institute and by undergraduates.
The Institute should consider sharing the theater with undergraduates. However, if a sharing plan proves infeasible, then Harvard must provide a commensurate performance space for students. Students are already crunched for performing space and the theater is a valuable one for student performers. The loss of the Agassiz theatre would be devastating to student performers if no plans are made for a replacement.
All these changes are going to require give-and-take from current users of Radcliffe's property and the Institute's new directors, as well as planning by the University in order to make up for the loss of space to both undergraduates and graduates. But as long as all parties are able to keep the Institute's mission in mind as the preeminent factor in negotiations, the process of physical conversion from what used to be Radcliffe College to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study should proceed with all due speed.
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