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Dean denies toom to misled student

Have you ever made a small mistake, not realizing it at the time, that came back to haunt you months later? Tad Artis made such an error last spring, and it is tormenting him now.

Tad, a senior this year, has lived on the same floor at Burton House for three years. He has played hockey, gone to parties and even served as floor chairman. He filled out a confirmation card in April for his fall room, along with the rest of the returning residents.

Because rooming assignments are made separately, students consider the confirmation card no more than a formality. The card had to be completed during a very busy time in the term. No one paid much attention to it.

The form included the choices: "I will not be returning to Institute housing" and "I will be returning to Institute housing." It did not explain that these choices referred to fall rooms. When Tad filled out the card, he assumed it asked if he planned to return for the summer. At the time, he did not. He checked the "I will not be returning" box. A simple, honest mistake. Then the trouble began.

Halfway through the summer, Burton House Desk Captain Paul Romanelli told Tad his name was not on the housing list he had received for the fall. The list had many other errors though, and the omission was considered an oversight. Romanelli submitted a revised list.

A week ago Thursday, Tad heard from the Dean's office through Paul. He was told he did not have his room in Burton House. He immediately contacted Ann Braden, staff assistant for housing issues in the Dean's Office, to clear up the problem. She understood the mistake but didn't help. She told him there would be absolutely no room in the entire dormitory system for him.

The case was brought to the Burton housemaster and then to Associate Dean Robert Sherwood. But Sherwood refused to give in. Tad's parents and the Burton House president were both ineffective.

Thirty other people have even better excuses to get back into the system, according to Sherwood. But Tad was not trying to use an "excuse." Tad never intended to leave in the first place.

Sherwood offered one way for Tad to stay. If he can find two upperclassman already in a double, he will be permitted to triple with them, Sherwood said.

A senior in a crowded triple is unheard of.

But there is an additional catch. He would not be permitted to use any piece of Institute furniture in the room. His bed and desk would not be provided.

We all know the dorms are going to be crowded this year. Very crowded. But that's not Tad's fault. It is a Dean's Office problem, and a very difficult one at that. There is no quick cure-all for the overcrowding situation. But taking it out on innocent students is not acceptable policy.

This is the kind of mistake that can happen to anybody here. A typing error on a computer transcript, a misread number on an add/drop card or ambiguous wording on a form -- all have happened many times and will continue to happen. Errors are inherent in any system involving many people with different priorities. A well-run institution has an obligation to correct them fairly. MIT students deserve that.

Tad's reaction? "I'm disappointed that the Dean's Office says they're supportive of students. I think it's pretty clear that it's a ridiculous situation."

Ridiculous to say the least. The Dean's Office considers the ruling final. Some members of Burton House are signing a petition in an effort to reverse the decision.

What will the next step be? "Well, hopefully it will all be solved by then," says Tad. I think we'd all like to hope so.