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Former Bexley resident cloaims R/O gives true taste of the dormitory

Column/Simson L. Garfinkel

Although I no longer live in Bexley Hall, I feel I have a duty to refute junior Eli Niewood's guest column ["Bexley antirush policy unfair to MIT students," Sept. 6]. Niewood gives the impression that the residents of Bexley Hall have, through their actions during Residence/Orientation Week, actively discouraged freshmen from choosing to live in Bexley.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Unlike other dormitories and independent living groups, Bexley residents believe R/O week is a time to give freshmen a taste of the true nature of the living group. The image projected from the Bexley courtyard during R/O week is, if somewhat condensed, a wholly accurate representation of what lies in store for future residents.

While other living groups crowd R/O week with parties, free food, movies and the like, Bexley has no such activities. Freshmen who choose to live in Bexley will not do so in the anticipation of future, nonexistent handouts.

One of the themes of Niewood's column is that Bexley is "one of the most attractive dormitories on our campus." Niewood cites Bexley's large rooms, fireplaces, soundproof walls, location, and its minimal amount of overcrowding as positive features -- reasons that would make any rational freshmen choose to live there.

Niewood ignores Bexley's physical realities such as the lack of a dining hall, a darkroom and clean walls, which are usually present in other dormitories. Niewood completely misses the real selection criterion most freshmen use in choosing a dormitory: the freshmen's impression of the people who live in the dorm.

For all of Niewood's appreciation of Bexley's rooms and location, if he cannot co-exist with the other Bexley students, he will be hopelessly miserable, no matter how close the dormitory is to 26-100 or the Student Center.

Niewood mistakenly states that "a dormitory belongs to MIT, and its expenses are shared by all residents of the dormitory system. A dorm must be accessible and appealing to all MIT students." Contrary to what one might infer from this passage, MIT dormitories are financially self-sufficient. The dormitory system breaks even; one dorm's expenses are not shared by other dormitories, as I have been told by numerous house masters and staff workers in the Office for the Dean of Student Affairs.

Is this true, or is Simson merely mouthing off? He better be right about it, or we'll look real bad. -REM Actually, I'll look bad. -slg. That's right, and I believe he'll look bad anyway. -apb And that's the way he wants it anyway -ens

Several years ago, when Bexley did engage in anti-rushing, the Office for the Dean of Student Affairs warned that rents would increase if rooms in Bexley were vacant while the rest of the housing system was crowded.

Niewood states that a "dorm must be accessible and appealing to all MIT students."

MIT dormitories cannot, nor should they be, "accessible and appealing to all MIT students," as Niewood states. Dormitories are different. A dormitory characteristic that is appealing to one student might be terribly unappealing to others. Such characteristics include single-sex housing, mandatory meal plans and location. The purpose of R/O is to allow freshmen to examine the living facillities, decide which they find appealing and move in to them.

Something can be less appealing than another thing, yet still be appealing on an absolute scale. Also, two different things can be equally appealing.

Niewood suggests that Bexley Hall be converted from a dormitory to a fraternity or sorority.

This suggestion is silly.

Bexley Hall would require extensive renovations to be converted into an independent living group. It would require the installation of communal dining facilities, redesign of the hallways, and a repartitioning of the living space. The furniture, property of the MIT housing system, would have to be removed and new furniture purchased. The building's gas, electric and telephone utilities would have to be cut and metered seperately.

Without these changes, a living group in the building could not have any measure of autonomy from the Institute. While these massive renovations were being made, Bexley's living space would be lost to the MIT housing system, exacerbating, rather than alleviating overcrowding.

Niewood concludes that the residents of Bexley must not be allowed to chase away freshmen. In doing so, he neglects two points: First, upperclassmen transfer to Bexley from other dormitories after their freshmen year, making the rush less important there. Second, some freshmen genuinely love Bexley Hall and choose to live there, because of, rather than despite, its residents.