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Crowding Doubles Over Last Year; Some in Grad Dorms

By Sarah Y. Keightley
Associate News Editor

More than twice as many dormitory rooms are crowded this year than were last year, and some transfer students have been assigned to graduate housing, according to Eliot S. Levitt '89, staff assistant for Residence and Campus Activities.

Levitt also said 70 to 80 percent of the freshmen in the dormitory system are living in crowded rooms.

Levitt noted, however, that 97 percent of the freshmen were assigned to one of their top three choices of dormitories. About 75 percent of the freshmen received their first choice dorm, 18 percent received their second choice, 4 percent received their third choice, and 3 percent received their fourth choice or below, Levitt said.

Several factors led to the crowding, including a freshman class of 1147 students, an increase in the number of housing requests from transfer students, and what Levitt described as an "average" rush by the independent living groups.

Of the 228 rooms on campus that can be crowded, 220 currently are crowded. Last year there were 101 crowded rooms.

A room is considered crowded if two students are assigned to a large single, three students are assigned to a large double, or four or five students assigned to one room. Crowded students pay less for their housing than they would for normal accommodations.

Dean of Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith said, "The number [of admitted students] was somewhat larger than we had intended ... we have to deal with what has happened."He said the administration wants to "balance the need for using our facilities fully" with the risk of overcrowding.

To alleviate overcrowding in undergraduate dormitories, the Residence and Campus Activities Office has assigned 20 transfer students to Westgate, a graduate dormitory for married students.

Since the 1991-1992 academic year, incoming transfer students have been guaranteed one-and-a-half years of housing. Previously, transfers were placed in a lottery for dormitory assignments. If they were not placed within a dormitory, they would be placed on a waiting list, Levitt said. This system was changed because Smith felt strongly that the transfer students deserve the same support that the freshman get, Levitt said.

This summer, the housing office reserved 10 rooms, or 20 spaces, in Westgate to prepare for crowding problems, Levitt said. During Residence/Orientation Week, transfer students were allowed to rank Westgate as one of their dormitory choices. Westgate rooms have private bathrooms and kitchens. Transfer students placed in Westgate were also guaranteed a double that would not be crowded.

All 20 of the reserved spaces in Westgate were used, but about half of the transfer students assigned to the dormitory did not indicate that they wanted to live there, Levitt said. If ILG rush had gone well, the housing office would have "re-evaluated using [the Westgate] rooms," he said.

Elizabeth S. Johnson, associate director of admissions, said that 60 transfer students came to MIT this year, down from the approximately 85 who came last year.

One sophomore transfer student who wished to remain anonymous said she was very upset when she was assigned to Westgate. Her first choice dormitory was McCormick Hall. To avoid living in Westgate, she moved to an ILG.

Crowding has also forced the housing office to turn down about 90 percent of the requests from upperclassmen returning from leaves of absence without guaranteed housing. "There's a human cost to that," Levitt said.

Even with the increase in the amount of crowding, Levitt said the number of housing complaints has not changed significantly from last year.

"Some crowding is a fact of life, but we hope not to repeat what has happened this fall," Smith said.

Smith said a long-term answer to the crowding problem is under discussion, and added that the administration is "not intending at this point to make any major increases in the student body."

A freshman who wished to remain anonymous said she was upset because the administration seems not to care about the freshmen in crowded rooms. She added that she and her roommates have had problems getting more furniture.

Other freshmen do not seem to mind the crowding. Kristen N. Fortino '96, who lives in Baker House, said that living in a crowded triple is "not too bad at all."

"The Baker rooms are pretty big anyway," said Stacy L. Robb '96, who is also living in a crowded room.