UA meeting probes FHC housing plan
By Katherine Shim
Students and administration panelists discussed the current housing system at a packed meeting of the Undergraduate Association Council last night in Twenty Chimneys. Recommendations of the Report of the Freshman Housing Committee, released in October 1989, were used as a springboard for discussion.
Among the topics debated were how rejection from fraternities, commonly known as "flushing," could be averted, how a new housing system should accommodate a changing student population, whether rush should be moved to the sophomore year and whether a new housing system should attempt to create a stronger sense of community at MIT.
In his opening remarks Dean of Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith said, "It seems to me that we have a new cast of characters in the administration and students. I agree with some of the recommendations of the FHC. I don't think it should be ignored. . . . I think we should build more dorms. I don't think that it's appropriate that all freshmen be randomly assigned to dormitories."
Housing to accommodate
Associate Provost for Educational Programs and Policy Samuel J. Keyser said change was needed in the current housing system to accommodate the swiftly changing demographics of the student body.
"The system that is in place now was designed for white, Anglo-Saxon males. It was designed for a system different from what is here now," he said.
This means that "if you're a white male, you're across the river. In the fraternities, three percent are minorities, the rest are white males. I believe that it's extremely important to have as wide a communal experience as possible," Keyser said.
Director of Planning Ovadia R. Simha SM '57 also stressed the importance of changing the housing policy to accommodate changing demographics. "For the future we will have different kinds of folks, a different spread of gender, new students from places we can't even identify now," he said.
"We must address the real issue: In what direction should the MIT community go? Our female population is 30 percent. If it were to go up to 40 or 50 percent, the housing population will be exacerbated. . . . We must be willing to look beyond you own personal interests. None of the people here today will feel the effects. The benefits will be felt by those who come afterward," Simha said.
Students discuss flushing
In his opening remarks Keyser emphasized his concern for students who get rejected by a fraternity or independent living group during rush.
"I don't think flushing is a good thing. . . . What's good about the housing system now is choice, but the choice is not free. We have choice, but it comes at a price -- flushing, people getting hurt," he said.
Students and panelists debated whether the damaging affects of flushing could be averted by delaying rush until the sophomore year or later in the freshmen year.
"Is rejection better at the beginning of the freshman year than at the beginning of your sophomore year? I don't see it as any different," said Bill Jackson '93.
"If the focus shouldn't be on rejection," a student said, "then what's the point of being at MIT? Failing is a harsh thing, but at MIT it happens every day. It happens with the teaching. Rejection comes every day."
Toward the end of the forum Keyser said he would rethink his position on the issue of rejection. "I'm surprised that you all think it's okay. You're saying, `don't patronize us.' "
Many students said the aim of a new housing policy should not be to create greater diversity on campus, and that giving students the freedom to choose a dormitory does not necessarily discourage diversity. But, they added, it does encourage the formation of a strong support group within the dormitories and ILGs that students consider essential.
One student commented, "MIT has become very diverse. With the exception of McCormick [Hall] and Chocolate City, all the dormitories are diverse. My dormitory has a lot of diversity. Why can't the administration see that?"
"I was always unable to understand why the administration felt it must administer diversity," Smith said. "As long as you maintain a freedom of choice, people are going to choose what they want. . . . Whatever we might mean toward managing diversity, I think that most MIT students have dealt rather well with rapidly changing demographics," he said.
Tewhey disagreed, saying that "I fully agree if the situation is one in which students are given an absolutely free choice. But the case is that during rush students are given an explicit or implicit message that `you don't belong here.' Some of the subgrouping occurs not because of what the freshman wants but what the larger group wants."
Sophomore rush discussed
Students also discussed the possibility of moving rush to sophomore year.
"Putting rush off to sophomore year would make fraternities even more homogeneous and would just hurt the dormitories," said Burton House President Susan K. Raisty '92. "I can see the affects of two years of bad rushes. Freshmen are the life and blood of a living group. It would really hurt the dormitories to not have a group of enthusiastic freshmen. The dormitories would just become buildings."
A student said, "I would much rather have rush during the freshmen year than the sophomore year. The sophomore year is one of the most stressful periods at MIT. I would not want to be rushing and choosing a dorm at that time."
Another student said: "If you push rush to sophomore year, a house's population would be decreased by one-fourth. If my sources are correct, one-third of ILGs will be in serious trouble. Many fraternities will fold. I would like to see justification before this is done."
dissatisfaction with MIT
Another issue at the meeting was whether a new housing system should take responsibility for creating a more coherent MIT community.
"I find it quite interesting that MIT and the administration aredeciding to be nice," said one student. "The Institute is what you go to for academics. You turn in your problem sets. You take your tests. Your teachers don't know who you are. MIT doesn't have school spirit more because of the way academics are handled here than because of the housing system. Your living group is all that you have at MIT."
"I would like to see more faculty involvement with students. Some fraternity houses have a faculty member connected with the house. I think that's a good idea. I would like to see every house have a faculty advisor," said Interfraternity Council president Holly L. Simpson '92.
"The schools with the biggest unity have everyone get together and go to the football game. That's not going to happen here," said one student.