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First-year students deserve priority in housing

I'm sure we all know people with first-year housing horror stories. They wound up in the Back Bay paying megabucks or in Belmont at the end of two bus routes or with roommates from hell -- situations they had to live with for a year. Finding an apartment in the first place is hard enough, first-year graduate students who do not get on-campus housing also have to adjust to a new city with a new transit system, realtor's fees, often a new language, and the problem of having to sell oneself to strangers as a compatible roommate.

Imagine how different it might have been for them had they been able to live on campus their first year. They could have settled into MIT and Boston in a friendly, supportive and broadening environment. If and when the time came to move out, they might have had friends with whom to move in.

This is why I took exception to Beth and Vernon Ingram's letter ["Housing Office plan for dorms threatens graduate community," Oct. 13]. At first they sound concerned for the incoming students, but then they continue to say that what they have in Ashdown is so special and fragile that they just must be selfish and maintain the current policy. This is called the NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome. The Ingrams seem to be saying, "Put the incoming in Tang or the Somerville Outback or in some new dorm -- just not in Ashdown."

This is unacceptable. We must house all incoming graduate students with the housing we have. We should build accommodation for everyone who wants it, but in the mean time, new students must have first priority. Over 82 percent of the 1552 graduate students who completed last year's Graduate Student Council housing questionnaire agree with me on that one. That is a clear mandate to change the housing allocation scheme. The question is how.

I'm not sure how the present proposal for changing the housing allotment system was developed, but it has not been voted on by the GSC, and the GSC Housing Committee has not met since the spring. I am a member of both. Whatever the process was, it was anything but democratic. Anyone interested in this issue should come to the first housing committee meeting next week.

Everyone has their own proposal for housing all incoming graduate students and here is mine:

The new graduate dormitory being built on Albany Street will be exclusively for incoming students.

Incoming students will be divided between existing dorms in proportion to the capacity of those dorms.

Individual dorms will be responsible for formulating their own rules for deciding who may stay.

The Housing Office will request the president of each dorm to submit list of N students in that dorm who will be allowed to stay the following year.

By June 10, the dorm presidents will have given the Housing Office such a list or some default process, like a lottery, will take place.

Continuing students may enter the dorms by replacing others who wish to leave during the year.

I like this policy for several reasons. First, only a few borderline students should be surprised one way or the other, as the dorms will have a good idea how large N will be. These students will have 21/2 months notice, 11/2 months more than those of us in the real world. But more importantly, by a judicious choice of criteria (community service, seniority, participation, or whatever) individual dorms will be able to maintain that precious fabric of community with scarcely a wrinkle.

Think about it and bring your own suggestions to the meeting. See you on Monday.

Mark Engel G->