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Crowding problems expected; Sherwood asks frats to crowd

By Katie Schwarz

Up to 500 freshmen may live in crowded dormitory rooms this fall, according to Associate Dean for Student Affairs Robert A. Sherwood. Two hundred rooms, twice the expected number, may be crowded.

Sherwood attributed the crowding to the large freshman class and the large number of upperclassmen in the dormitories. The incoming freshman class exceeds its targeted size of 1025 by almost 50 students, according to the Admissions Office. Eighty-one transfer students are also slated to arrive at MIT.

"The other bad news" is the high number of upperclassmen in the dormitory system, Sherwood said. The Office of the Dean for Student Affairs (ODSA) originally expected 1981 returning dormitory residents, but it now believes that 2030 to 2040 upperclassmen will claim dormitory spaces.

Earlier this week, Sherwood urged the fraternities to crowd. He hopes that each fraternity will take one or two pledges beyond the capacity of the house. The ODSA expects approximately one-third of this year's new students to join fraternities and independent living groups.

The fraternity system can house up to 25 students beyond its normal capacity by crowding, according to InterFraternity Conference Rush Chairman Kenneth S. Koblan '86. Koblan said he would not reveal the specific pledge goal, but he expects it will be met. "I expect everybody to have a very good rush," he said.

Sherwood also hopes to induce more upperclassmen to leave the dormitory system by waiving the late cancellation fee. Upperclass residents cancelling dormitory assignments before Registration Day this year will not be required to pay the usual penalty, which begins at $100.

Sherwood blames the crowding on the scarcity of affordable off-campus housing. Fewer upperclass students moved off campus because apartments are more difficult to find than ever before, he explained.

Administrator for Housing Services Linda L. Patton said, "Rents are much higher than we predicted, and there's just nothing available ... We are desperate."

Conversion of apartments to condominiums and speculation by landlords are "beginning to severely affect the housing available to students," she added. The housing situation is particularly burdensome for incoming graduate students because they are not guaranteed Institute housing.

The highest level of dormitory crowding in MIT history, 220 rooms, occurred in 1980, the year before 500 Memorial Drive opened. Seven freshmen lived in TV rooms in the basement of Ashdown House that year because the ODSA could not find dormitory rooms for them. Sherwood does not think crowding will be as severe this year as it was in 1980.

There are a total of 2633 spaces in the dormitory system. Forty spaces are reserved for transfer students. The transfer students who will occupy the spaces will be selected by lottery.

Only three freshmen, rather than the usual 10 to 15, will live at home and commute to MIT this year, contributing more to the housing crunch, Sherwood said.

Crowding may be reduced in the future if the Alpha Phi sorority finds an off-campus residence, he noted. Since Alphi Phi has no house, most of its members now live in dormitories. Establishment of an off-campus sorority house would increase the number of spaces available in Institute housing by 40 to 50.

MIT has searched unsuccessfully for an Alpha Phi house for over a year and is now contemplating building one on Institute property, according to Sherwood. The Alpha Phi national alumni corporation is considering support for the proposed construction.