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MIT seeks sorority housing

By Craig Jungwirth

and Thomas T. Huang

Alpha Phi's difficulty in finding an off-campus sorority house stands before the problematic backdrop of overcrowded campus housing at MIT.

William R. Dickson '56, senior vice president, is conducting "a feasibility study to see if we can find a house" for Alpha Phi, according to Associate Dean for Student Affairs Robert A. Sherwood. "It's taking us much longer than expected."

Last week, Sherwood outlined the possible use of Bexley Hall as a house for the sorority -- one plan among many suggested to the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs (ODSA).

"From a theoretical standpoint, we have some demanding needs on campus such as Alpha Phi and overcrowding," he said. It is "intolerable to have crowds [in the dormitory system] while Bexley is uncrowded.

"I hope that [closing Bexley] would not be necessary.... If I really envisioned gutting Bexley and kicking the people out of there ... [Alpha Phi] said they ideally would like to live on campus," he said.

In practice, however, the Dean's Office "is steadfastly opposing [Alpha Phi's] taking over a dormitory," Sherwood said.

Sherwood's position on the Bexley issue remains unclear. The ODSA could "kick out all residents [of Bexley] and fill [the house] with crowded" students from the dormitory system, he said.

But he questioned the ethics of displacing all Bexley residents when "there were six to ten residents who ran ... this anti-rush."

Another alternative would be to "turn Bexley into a graduate dormitory," Sherwood said. "But all [of the suggestions] are reasonable and are [being] taken into consideration" by the Dean's Office.

He said: "We will meet in good faith with the residents, housemaster and tutors [of Bexley] to resolve the problems that occurred this year.... If we are not confident ... there will be some major changes in Bexley in a year from now.

"I think Bexley is an important entity in terms of its [uniqueness on campus]. But they have got to tow the line," he said. "Our office and the housing office are seriously ready to close [Bexley] down," he claimed.

"My hope is that we can have as fruitful a discussion with Bexley as we did with Senior House," Sherwood said. "During the academic year, Bexley has not presented any real problems," he explained. "Idealistically, we did not anticipate any problems during R/O [Residence/Orientation week]. The fact that Bexley doesn't have a house government puts us in the position to call on a student."

Communications between the ODSA and Bexley "become somewhat disfunctional," he continued. "We respect their anarchistic" house government, "but it is contradictory that everyone speaks for Bexley and no one speaks for Bexley."

"Bexley was a definite problem" during this year's R/O, said Dormitory Council Chairman Anthony Scotti '86. But "I don't think [Sherwood] is going to turn" Bexley into a house for Alpha Phi.

"Most people are stuck [in Bexley] and don't want to get involved," Scotti explained. "You can't make people do things."

Alpha Phi extends bids

All 26 bids extended by Alpha Phi were accepted, according to Alpha Phi President Evie Vance '86. The sorority's previous membership of approximately 65 members has risen to an all-time high of 74 sisters, she said.

"Alpha Phi's rush seems to support the premise that Alpha Phi is a good idea on campus," Sherwood said. There is "a real inequity in the number of [residence] choices for women" compared to those for men at MIT.

This problem "makes it even more imperative that the Institute find off-campus housing to help alleviate crowding in the dorm system," he explained. The "interest of women in" more housing choices "bears in benefit of options," he said.

"The biggest problems [in securing off-campus housing for Alpha Phi] are zoning laws in Boston," Vance said. The sorority must find a house that is "zoned right, close enough and safe enough, and there's not a whole lot out there."

Sherwood said, "There has been a lot of from McCormick Hall," concerning the large concentration of Alpha Phi in that dormitory.

"In the past, [the Institute] has never wanted us to group together in a dormitory," Vance said. MIT "hasn't been willing to let us group together at all.

"I think that if we could have the entire [dormitory --Bexley] ... [and] fill it up, it would be obviously an improvement because it is not filled now," she said.

But "I don't think, in terms of public relations with people in Bexley," that Alpha Phi's acquisition of Bexley would be agreeable, Vance said. "I don't know about other people. I'm sure a lot would be said on both sides."