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Plan gives first-year grads priority

By Prabhat Mehta

A new plan which will eventually guarantee places in Institute housing to half of all incoming graduate students will likely take effect this January with the opening of a new graduate dormitory on 143 Albany Street, according to information provided by the Office of Housing and Food Service.

The goal of the new housing policy is to maximize the number of first-year graduate students who are able to live on campus, OHFS Director Lawrence E. Maguire said in a press release.

"We are proposing this plan because of the increasing difficulty incoming students face in finding appropriate housing," Maguire said. "Many grad students are new to MIT and to the area and they face a heavy investment of personal time, not to mention money, in seeking housing," he noted.

Under the new plan, two separate lotteries -- one for new graduate students and another one for returning graduate students -- will take place every year, and each group will get half the total number of places available. Students chosen in the first-year lottery will be offered one-year leases, while those in the continuing students lottery will get renewable contracts. Those who get first-year housing will have the option to reenter as continuing students for subsequent years.

Current graduate students living in MIT housing will be unaffected by this plan, which will be implemented over the next several years. Maguire said that by the end of three years, about 50 percent of the incoming graduate students will be in MIT houses.

MIT will rent out the nearly 200 beds in the new Albany Street dormitory under the guidelines of the new policy. Occupation of that dormitory may begin as early as January 1990. The policy will be used for new students in all other dormitories beginning in September of the same year.

Those who enter the Albany Street dormitory as "new" students next term will have leases which extend to September 1991, in order to avoid cutting their leases to less than one year, said Julia J. Vail G, chair of the Housing and Community Affairs Committee of the Graduate Student Council.

GSC poll influences

working group

The new plan was developed by a working group comprised of representatives from GSC, other graduate students, and several Housing Office officials.

One of the reasons for assembling this group -- which first met in June -- was to consider the implications of a GSC housing poll taken in February. The survey indicated that 82 percent of the over 1500 people (about a third of all graduate students) who responded favored giving new graduate students priority in on-campus housing; and 69.9 percent said that they would have preferred living on campus their first year, Vail said.

In a typical year, less than 25 percent of first-year students live on campus, according to the GSC's Robert D. Kiss G.

Vail explained that on-campus housing in the first-year is especially important to graduate students for two reasons: the inconvenience and expense of having to search for off-campus housing over the summer; and the importance of being a part of the campus atmosphere throughout the adjustment phase of the first year.

With regard to the former, she emphasized the problems faced by those who live far away from the Boston area. "People coming from from another country. . . or [from] California have to take time out to find housing, and that's expensive," she said. "Being here for a year," she explained, "gives them a chance to look around. . . [to] find out where [and] who to live with."

The second reason stems from less tangible concerns. "Being a graduate student can be a very isolating existence," Vail said. A first year in on-campus housing, she asserted, allows people to develop contacts and sense of community.

Vail expressed confidence in the new plan, but acknowledged that its outcome is far from predictable. With a turnover in graduate dormitories averaging about 50 percent a year, Vail predicted that the new plan would not displace a large number of continuing graduate students reapplying for housing.

Still, she said that special concerns -- such as those of married students with children -- will not be ignored, and that any good suggestions will be considered.