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Crowding Levels Down from 1992

By A. Arif Husain

Despite the administration's efforts to limit crowding to around 165 students, 179 undergraduates are living in crowded rooms as of yesterday. This shows a slight improvement from the 198 crowded students from this same period last year, according to Kenneth R. Wisentaner, associate director of housing and food services.

After Residence and Orientation Week, 225 students remained in rooms that were filled over their official capacities. Since then, many students have accepted late bids from independent living groups or moved to dormitories with vacancies, leaving the total number of crowded students at 179. The high crowding rate is attributed to a large freshman admittance rate and to this year's 80 transfer students, said Lawrence E. Maguire, director of housing and food services.

Until recently, transfer students were not accounted for in the assessment of guaranteed housing. Last year's 198 crowded students included the 20 transfer students who were housed in Westgate, a graduate dormitory. This year, no undergraduates were housed in the graduate dormitory system, Wisentaner said.

With no crowding, the Institute dormitory system can house 2,614 undergraduates. It has the capability of housing 227 students in crowded quarters. Crowding can not be eliminated for financial reasons, Maguire said. Instead, the administration attempts to keep it within a comfortable range of about 165 crowded rooms, which it considers to be an acceptable median.

"I think crowding is a bad idea," said Eric Gravengaard '97, a MacGregor House resident living in a crowded room. "When you start planning to crowd every year, then it's not really crowding. They need to get weaned off of this idea," he said.

The most crowded dormitory is Burton House with 33 crowded students. East Campus follows with 31 crowded students, Next House with 28 crowded students, and MacGregor with 27 crowded students, according to Wisentaner.

Currently, 22 vacancies exist in the undergraduate dormitory system: one in Bexley Hall, two in MacGregor, five in Random Hall, and 14 in Senior House, Wisentaner said. Two vacancies still remain in MacGregor, despite the 27 crowded students there because certain students did not want to decrowd, he explained.

There are also some spaces available in Huntington Hall, the Boston dormitory that MIT is leasing from the Massachusetts College of Art to relieve overcrowding. "My understanding of Huntington is that there are 68 rooms with a headcount of 52," Wisentaner said. The Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs is in charge of Huntington, while the housing office jurisdiction only encompasses the on-campus dormitories, he said. Huntington is being subsidized by the Dean's Office.

Committee discussing options

MIT administrators, members of a committee to search for ways to alleviate crowding, met recently to discuss possible revisions of the current housing policy.

The committee includes President Charles M. Vest, Director of Admissions Michael C. Behnke, Maguire, Associate Director of Planning Robert K. Kaynor, Director of Special Services Stephen D. Immerman, and Dean for the ODUESA Arthur C. Smith, who is chairing the committee.

Maguire called housing a "top priority." He said, "Much of what is going on involves looking at current resources. This is a big year for re-engineering the system."

The major goals of the committee are to evaluate available resources and to assess possibilities for improvement, Maguire said. Immediate objectives include bringing present crowding to within the acceptable range and establishing a long-term course of action to prevent such high crowding rates in the future.

Although the idea of a new dormitory has come up, no definitive plans have been announced.

(Sarah Y. Keightley contributed to the reporting of this story.)