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Bad-Mouthing Rules Change for Dormitory Residents

By Eva Moy
Associate News Editor

This year's Residence/Orientation Week marks the beginning of a number of changes aimed at increasing the privacy of incoming students, as well as making the Rush process easier and more successful.

Some of the changes, especially those having to do with the way in which living groups may contact freshmen, are designed to placate complaints that the Institute infringed upon students' constitutional rights.

Rush Central, another feature new to this year's R/O Week, is intended to make residence selection easier and a bit less pressured for students new to MIT.

But other changes -- including the scheduling of two mandatory tests in one day -- may add to the pressure that freshmen feel on their first full day at MIT.

Bad-mouthing policy changed

In response to complaints that MIT violated students' right to free speech, the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs retracted its "bad-mouthing" policy, according to Eliot S. Levitt '89, staff assistant for Residence and Campus Activities. In the past, students were restricted from telling freshmen about any living group other than their own.

Dormitory residents still may not speak with malicious intent or accuse of a person of having committed crimes -- acts that would be considered harassment under MIT rules. However, residents may say true and unfavorable statements, Levitt said.

"We can hold dormitory residents to the same standards that we hold dormitory residents during the year. We cannot hold them to a different standard during R/O," Levitt said.

Harassment charges can be brought by any person being harassed or Judicial Committee members who might witness harassment. "We're not out there to snoop around and be Big Brother, but if something comes to your attention, either in casual conversation or wherever, it's only fair for the people who are talked about to follow up on it," he said.

Screening phone calls

Another new policy allows freshmen to screen telephone calls from fraternities and independent living groups which are transferred through a dormitory's front desk. The desk may either transfer the call or take a message, depending on the freshman's preferences, Levitt said.

Fraternities and ILGs are encouraged to ask for freshmen's phone numbers when visiting their house to avoid having to call through a dormitory's front desk, according to Levitt. This is "giving power to freshmen to choose who they want to talk to and when."

"MIT, as a general rule, does not like to give out people's phone numbers to strangers, and you don't really know who's calling," Levitt said.

Freshmen can sign a form at any time during R/O requesting that no calls be transferred to their rooms. Those freshmen who wish to do so may change their minds at any time.

"It looks like the fraternities and dormitories are working closer together to help freshmen to have as much contact as they desire," said Neal H. Dorow, advisor to fraternities and independent living groups.

Test changes

The Freshman Essay Evaluation is mandatory for all freshmen, except those who received a score of five on the Advanced Placement Language/Composition test, according to Les C. Perelman, assistant dean and coordinator for the Writing Requirement.

It has also been moved from the Tuesday after Rush to tomorrow morning before Rush, said Mary Z. Enterline, associate dean of the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Office.

Because the test is required and there is more time for grading, the evaluation system was changed to "increase significantly the accuracy of the grading," Perelman said. Each person writes two essays, both of which are read by two readers without consultation, with major discrepancies solved by a third reader, he added.

The math diagnostic will be held tomorrow afternoon instead of the Friday of Rush weekend, Enterline said.

With the added time for grading, the faculty advisors will receive the results early enough so that a student's "performance can be taken into account when choosing classes," Enterline said.

For students who do poorly on the math diagnostic, the math and physics departments have collaborated to help students strengthen these areas of study, according to Margaret S. Enders, assistant dean for curriculum support. "It was quite clear to us that students who did badly on the math diagnostic also did badly in physics," she added.

Rush Central

Modeled after the panhellenic Rho Chi Central, Rush Central is a place where freshmen can turn for advice in getting involved with Rush. Volunteers from fraternities and ILGs will try to help freshmen who are interested in getting involved with Rush, but unsure of how to proceed. The purpose is to keep freshmen "involved in the Rush process" and pointed in the right direction, Dorow said.