UA and Institute will try to improve R/OBy Katherine Shim
With warnings from Faculty Chair and Professor of Ocean Engineering J. Kim Vandiver and Dean for Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith that the Institute housing system will be seriously reexamined within the next few months, analysis of the current housing process has begun.
"The current housing system is not the best for all freshmen," said Undergraduate Association President Stacy E. McGeever '93. "Though some people go through the system without any problems, the system is obviously not the best for everyone," she said.
McGeever identified three major controversial housing issues: the current housing system may discourage diversity within the dormitories, the system places too much pressure too early on incoming freshmen and MIT students who choose to live in independent living groups off campus tend to be isolated from MIT community life.
McGeever also cited three positive aspects of the housing system: freshmen "get the perception that they have a choice of where they can live," the rush process "is great for freshmen to make a lot of friends quickly" and rush generates a lot of enthusiasm among upperclassmen.
successful this year
Co-chairman of the Residence/Orientation Center Committee Scott A. McDermott '94 said the housing system went especially smoothly this year due to the development of an algorithm that maximized the chance of freshmen receiving their first- or second-choice dormitory.
The algorithm "made a lot of people fairly happy instead of a few people very happy. Last year a lot of freshmen got their seventh or eight choice of dormitory. This year this happened to a lot fewer
people," he said.
"I can't think of anything that went wrong this year. Everything went absolutely smoothly," McDermott added.
Staff Associate of the Office of (Please turn to page 2)
Student Affairs Eliot S. Levitt '89 said that the current dormitory housing system emphasizes the importance "of keeping freshmen happy."
He described the housing process as trying to balance the interests of freshmen and the interests of upperclassmen who want certain freshmen to live in their dormitory.
Levitt said that criticisms that the current housing system discourages diversity in the dormitories is a "two-sided" issue. "There are two sides to every coin," Levitt said. "While the current dormitory system may discourage diversity, it may encourage cohesion on campus. It's what you consider your priorities to be. One priority is to have students as happy as possible where they're living. This will necessarily lead to people who are alike living together."
"If students feel strongly that diversity on campus is important, that would have to be considered," he added.
Levitt also commented on the issue of the ability of freshmen to make a sound decision about where they would live so soon after arriving on campus. "Freshmen are adults," Levitt said. "They are of legal age to make a contractual decision. I personally don't have a problem with their making the decision on where to live," he said.
"The system is also self-correcting. Freshmen can change dormitories at any time, and generally within a year their transfer requests are granted," Levitt said.
Since housing assignments were made in early September, fewer than 20 freshmen have asked to move into another dormitory, Levitt said. "I don't see a lot of dissatisfaction," he said.
Questions have also been raised on the usefulness of rush rules, in which no upperclassman from any dormitory or ILG can defame other dormitories or ILGs in front of freshmen until housing preference cards are turned in and ILG bids are given out.
"The reason why there are rules like this is to avoid malicious rumors," Levitt said. "It makes a lot of sense for fraternities that could fall into financial trouble if they don't get a large enough pledge class."
Rush rules prevent the potential situation in which a large group of fraternities would bad-mouth one particular fraternity, resulting in few freshmen showing up for that fraternity's rush parties, Levitt said.
Random Hall resident Tabora T. Constantennia '95 said, "I felt pressure to go very fast. I had one day to look at all of the dormitories, which was very inconvenient. I wanted to bring all of my stuff up as soon as I got onto campus."
"I had just the right amount of time to choose a dorm," said Elaine C. Yiu '95, a resident of McCormick. "I was not involved in sorority rush, so I got a little bored. I got settled in pretty fast."
ILG rush reviewed
Advisor to Fraternities and Independent Living Groups Neal H. Dorow spoke on the advantages this year's ILG rush.
"Rush shrinks the campus down to a manageable size for a freshman away from home for the first time. ILGs provide a group of supportive friends that help freshmen make the adjustment to college," Dorow said.
"Rush also provides an opportunity for self-governance. People are asked to make decisions about how to take care of themselves. A lot more responsibility is required to live in [ILGs]. People living in an off-campus cooperative environment must worry about maintenance, meal-planning, payments and bills. That's educational and valuable," he said.
Dorow the cited the "hectic, compressed" nature of rush as a major drawback to the ILG rush system, giving both the ILGs and the rushees little time to make serious decisions.
"It's hectic, it's compressed,
it's a rush," Dorow said. "But despite all that; it does seem to work given the fact that 95% of freshmen who pledge an ILG eventually initiate. Other college campuses with a longer and differed rush have lower percentages."
"A drawback of the system is that unfortunately some potentially good members of an ILG are overlooked in the process. Many people comment that there just isn't enough time for the [ILGs] to see more rushees or for the rushees to see more ILGs. There are some people who are dissatisfied with the process on that basis," Dorow said.
"Rush was too artificial, you don't get a real sense of the fraternities during rush. Fraternity rush also gave me no time to look at the dormitories," said Russell V. Yu '95 and current resident of Burton-Conner.
"You feel guilty about turning down the bids," said Burton resident John R. Tedrow '95. "Fraternity brothers take you out to concerts, they buy you food, but you have to try to see beyond this facade. I would also like to have a couple more days either at the end of rush or over the whole rush period. I would have liked to get more sleep," he said.
"I had a great time," said Ethan S. Close '95, a pledge at Beta Theta Pi. "I had rushed over the summer, but I would have been confused if I had only rush week to rush. I was lucky to be here over the summer."