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What is MIT's housing guarantee is revoked?

Guest Column/David Goldstone

It began merely ten months ago: The name was announced.

"David Goldstone," the voice boomed. All my worst nightmares came true -- I had lost in the lottery for on-campus housing. I couldn't believe I would have to spend my last year at MIT off-campus.

Now after graduating today, June 9, 1989, I look back, realizing that losing my place on-campus had not been the nightmare I had expected.

I had been worried, to say the least. I was most concerned that I might lose a sense of campus "community." Indeed, I was suffering my fate with only one hundred other seniors. Many more students were forced off-campus in surrounding universities: Boston University, Emerson College, and Simmons College. MIT was only moving out three percent of its undergraduates.

Just as those schools haven't lost their sense of community, neither would MIT, considering the almost negligible change. Nonetheless, that rationalizing didn't allay my fears: I was afraid I would lose my feeling of belonging to MIT.

As it turned out, I retained my feeling of community. The expansion of the Non-Resident Student Association (NRSA) was most instrumental. Previously, the NRSA had been more than adequate for the number of undergraduate Non-Residents (NRs). It had held some parties, fielded a few intramural teams, and provided limited overnight facilities on campus. Yet, with all the new NRs, the NRSA grew tremendously.

The NRSA split into two social factions, east and west of campus. Each section now held parties, either for itself or the entire NRSA. My section, NRSA-W, held the better parties, of course. One of the benefits of becoming a NR, it turned out, was no curfew on these parties.

For some IM sports, East and West sections fielded their own teams. The NRSA also fielded teams with members from both East and West.

All this expansion of the NRSA aided in the preservation of our MIT spirit without us living on campus.

The Office of Off-Campus Housing also expanded. They always had a comprehensive list of available apartments. This list was updated and enlarged.

Furthermore, "The Office," as it came to be known, proved to be quite helpful to us NRs in terms of negotiation and signing leases, as well as in housing disputes. I myself would have been evicted in November after the infamous Halloween party had The Office not helped me to examine my lease. Through the NRSA I kept my spirit up while The Office helped me keep a roof over my head.

Another initial worry I had about living off-campus concerned the increased cost of living, stemming not only from the high apartment rents but also from the transportation to and from campus. Furthermore, many landlords were hesitant to accept undergraduates for fear of non-payment of rent.

Fortunately, MIT stepped in. The Institute solved all the problems through a program referred to as "grandfathering." The Institute was taking care of us, its fledgling NRs.

MIT paid the rents to the landlords directly. We paid the Institute as though we were living in its most expensive dorm, Next House. MIT simply covered any difference. For the NRs living beyond walking distance from campus, MIT negotiated a deal with the MBTA for a reduced rate T fare. These measures brightened the gloomy picture considerably.

Of course, MIT wasn't grandfathering us out of the kindness of its heart. MIT's own miscalculations had caused it to revoke housing guarantees; the Institute was obligated to aid students left in the cold.

But MIT was not rushing to revoke the guarantees either; it simply was caught in a situation with no other alternatives. It couldn't reduce class size by one hundred. The corresponding two million dollar loss in revenue was too much.

Unfortunately, MIT couldn't increase housing accommodations. There were no plans and no money. The Institute was caught with its pants down -- something which should never have happened.

Yet, instead of blushing and trying to cover up mistakes, MIT dealt with the problem logically to make the best of a bad situation. It enlarged the NRSA and the Office for Off-Campus Housing. The Institute also helped with financial problems, stemming from increased rental and transportation costs.

It could have been a nightmare; instead, it was a good experience.

And it began merely ten months ago.