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Grad students oppose proposed housing policy

By Dave Watt

Graduate students would be assigned to Institute housing based on a two-tier lottery system and Tang Hall apartments would house only first-year graduate students under a new plan for graduate housing put forth by Lawrence E. Maguire, director housing and food services.

According to Maguire, the plan would provide a total of 930 beds per year for incoming graduate students and would be phased in gradually over the next four years. Members of the Graduate Student Council and the Graduate Housing and Student Affairs Committee (HSA), which worked for months on a plan of its own for housing new graduate students ["Graduate housing plan supported," Nov. 28, 1989], have protested the proposal.

Under Maguire's plan, a first lottery would determine whether a first-year graduate student would get housing. These contracts would last for only one year. At the end of the first year on campus, the student could either enter into the second lottery to obtain tenured housing or move off campus. The two-tier lottery would affect all on-campus graduate residences except for Tang Hall, which would house only incoming students.

Forty percent of the spaces in Ashdown would be reserved for incoming students and 60 percent for continuing graduate students. The other dormitories -- including Green Hall, Eastgate and Westgate -- would be held to a quota of 50 percent for each.

[bb] William R. Dickson '56, senior vice president of MIT, felt the impact of Maguire's plan would be minimal. "The change is not overly significant," he said. "Graduate housing is pretty much the same as it has always been except for the question of room assignments. There is really quite small an impact in my opinion," he added. Dickson will make the final decision on a graduate student housing plan.

The GSC's plan, approved by consensus in the HSA and by a 29-3 vote of the GSC, calls for all of the houses to commit to providing as much space for incoming graduate students as possible, and reserves the new Albany Street dormitory for new graduate students. Their plan also creates specific quotas for the number of new graduate students each house must accept. How the quotas would be attained would be left to the discretion of each house. In the event that a house could not meet its quota by other means, the two-lottery system would go into effect.

Graduates express concern

about housing plan

Tang Hall officers were upset by Maguire's proposal. "This plan is really disruptive for people in Tang," said Ann C. Westerheim G, a past president of the Tang Hall Residents Association. "The whole thing was started because of the GSC housing survey, and now [Maguire is] ignoring the GSC's advice," she said.

Maguire believed that Tang Hall was in need of renovation and "a new mission." He felt "the space [in Tang] is too small to serve the function it was supposed to serve," and that "it's not a great atmosphere." However, "it could work for first year students," he said.

Westerheim rejected Maguire's criticisms of Tang. "Many more people move from Ashdown into Tang than move from Tang to Ashdown," she said.

Tang Hall supports the GSC plan, according to Gautam Nayar G, current president of THRA.

Leaders in other graduate student dormitories were also concerned about the impact of the Maguire proposal. "I don't want my house to become like an apartment building," said Janet L. Pan G, president of Green Hall. "We get the impression that [Maguire] is more interested in packing in large numbers of students into Green Hall without caring what the quality of life for those students will become."

Pan was also concerned that Green Hall, with only 46 students, will have little continuity in house government because students interested in running the house might have to leave after one year. She also expressed concern that the residents would no longer be interested in housewide social activities.

Most of the people interviewed were surprised to learn that Maguire's proposal included the two-lottery system. Nayar, Westerheim, Pan, and Arnout M. Eikeboom G, president of the Ashdown House Executive Committee (AHEC), were all surprised to learn that Maguire's plan included the two-lottery system of allocating spaces in the residences, which takes control of allocating tenured housing away from the individual dormitories.

Michael J. Warwick G, president of the GSC, reluctantly supported the idea of having the two-lottery system in the graduate dormitories. "I'm being pragmatic -- it's still [Maguire's] job, and he's got to do what he's got to do. . . . Under the circumstances, it's the best we can hope for," he said.

Julia J. Vail G, HSA chair, criticized Maguire's memo outlining his housing plan. "The proposal was vague and grossly incomplete."

AHEC has not taken a position on Maguire's proposal, although representatives of Ashdown voted in favor of the GSC proposal. Eikeboom had no comment on Maguire's plan.

Maguire additionally claimed that taking control of housing assignments and vacancy reports away from the houses will make the assignment process more efficient. "In order to assure that all spaces are being used you've got to have a very simple assignment process, and I don't think you can have a lot of middle people during the assignments," he said.

Vail, on the other hand, believed that the flexibility of the GSC plan was a strength, not a weakness. "Its unique features [are its] flexibility and individuality in terms of how the plan is administered in each house," she said. "There's a safety net default," she added, referring to the two-lottery system that would go into effect if quotas were not met.

Under the GSC plan, Ashdown would crowd some of its double rooms with three people, and convert some of its common areas into temporary bedrooms, according to AHEC documents. According to Eikeboom, Ashdown historically has had many vacancies by the end of the fall term, so it would be likely that all of the students in the overcrowded and temporary rooms would be able move into regular uncrowded rooms by the end of the fall term.

Maguire was concerned that aspects of the GSC plan "would create a kind of second-class citizenship for new graduate students," although he did not specifically claim that Ashdown's plan was one reason for this belief.