FHC report to be discussed
By Reuven M. Lerner
The two-year-old report of the Freshman Housing Committee is receiving increased attention from students, and may once again become the subject of public debate.
The committee, which was appointed by then-Provost John M. Deutch '61, was asked to examine the way freshmen choose their living groups and are oriented when they first arrive at MIT. Among other things, the report suggested that all freshmen live on campus, with rush for independent living groups postponed until later that year.
Faculty Chair and Professor of Ocean Engineering J. Kim Vandiver said the administration has been having "discussion about having more discussion" on the subject, but nothing more. Vandiver felt that "in the coming few months, you will see movement in the direction of bringing up the issues" that the report raised.
It would be "premature" to say that the administration has seriously discussed the issue in recent months, he added.
Dean for Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith thought discussion would begin "in the course of the next month." He added, "I don't think on an issue of this magnitude there is going to be a quick decision."
Despite such assurances, students are beginning to prepare for discussion of the housing issue.
Soon after the FHC report came out, a large number of undergraduate students met with the committee in 6-120. An overwhelming majority of those present said they were opposed to any changes in residence selection, and explained how they felt ILG rush, dormitory personalities and upperclassman-freshman relationships would be affected.
Since that forum took place, there has been little or no discussion of the report, with some students -- including some members of the Dormitory Council -- believing that the issue was dead.
Undergraduate Association President Stacy E. McGeever '93 said the UA has been meeting with dormitory presidents over the last week in order to find out their opinions on matters relating to the FHC report. She said, "at that time, they seemed rather concerned about it."
At last night's DormCon meeting, McGeever discussed the report with dormitory presidents. She said that the UA was planning to distribute copies of the FHC report, as well as background information on the subject of housing, to them in the near future.
Residence/Orientation Week "is beneficial to some students, [although] I think that other methods [of orientation] would be beneficial to other students," she said, adding that she was not sure what the majority of students thought. McGeever added that she felt upperclassmen benefit more from R/O Week than do freshmen.
DormCon Chair Judy Chin '92 declined to comment on the report, saying that she had not yet read it.
Both Smith and Vandiver were positive that no changes would be made without consulting students. "I can't imagine this issue being something that doesn't involve very wide campus discussion," Vandiver said.
Smith dismissed the notion that there had not been any discussion of the report for the last two years in order to wait until concerned students graduated.
He explained that extensive turnover within the administration had simply left no time to discuss the issue until now.
Smith felt that the report expressed a different way of looking at campus living groups. He said that some administrators and faculty members "would like the housing system to achieve some goals other than finding a place to live."
These goals, he said, included the feeling that "the residential unit is at the core of the educational experience. Where you live is almost a separate institution."
He added, "I find it a pretty good system as it stands. It is not perfect."
McGeever said that underlying the whole discussion is the issue of how best to integrate students into the MIT community. "The first question is not `is this a good thing'; the question you should ask is, `What kind of initiation do you want people to have to MIT?' "
Smith continued, "I think giving people the choice when they first arrive is a good thing. My experience has been that all the students I've known within a week after R/O are quite happy with it. I've had almost no cases that I can remember when students felt they have made a bad decision. . . . In general, students are satisfied."
He added that his own children were assigned roommates at the schools they attended, and thought that such a system was not a "particularly satisfying way to start college."
"One way or another, this institution has to make a decision about the FHC report," Smith said. But, he pointed out, "We can accept part of it and not all of it."