The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web

Senior House President Resigns Following Spat with Treasurer

By Stacey E. Blau
News Editor

Following the resignation of Senior House President Samuel L. Johnson '96, house residents are beginning to pick up the pieces of the dormitory's government.

Residents of Senior House will convene a meeting Sunday night to elect a new president and discuss the house's new proposed constitution. For unrelated reasons, the dormitory has been running without a constitution for several years.

The meeting comes mostly in response to Johnson's sudden resignation on the night of Oct. 2 following a meeting of the house officers during which the constitution was discussed, said Senior House Treasurer Jagruti S. Patel '97.

President resigns after conflict

The resignation stemmed from "a power struggle between me and the house treasurer [Patel]," Johnson said.

"I got sick of fighting over it and decided that it was no longer worthwhile for me to be president. I had hoped that [Patel] would resign as well, but she has not," he said.

Johnson said he was tired of the confusion and problems associated with being president in a letter posted to the Senior House electronic mailing list announcing his resignation.

"I'm going to step down and let someone else deal with this madness," he wrote.

"I think the house was a little bit shocked" at Johnson's resignation, Patel said. Patel said she felt that the meeting preceding Johnson's resignation was productive and she did not expect Johnson to resign.

In the letter, Johnson appointed his friend Christopher H. Barron '96 as his successor as his last act as president. Barron later posted a message to Senior House's mailing list declining the appointment.

"I do not expect this appointment' to be validated by anyone, and I find the idea of having a new election to be more agreeable," Barron said.

Johnson said that he designed the constitution "to help put an end to personal conflicts paralyzing house government, both now and in the future. If you all want to continue seeing it as solely aimed at [Patel], fine, it is partly; but I also made it in order to avoid conflicts like these in the future," he said.

Residents will focus on future

Senior House is moving past its internal conflicts and is looking towards rebuilding the house government, Patel said.

"The current state of things is that we are waiting to decide on the process of electing a new president."

At the Sunday meeting, residents will also discuss a new proposed constitution to replace one that was destroyed a number of years ago, she said. At the time the constitution was jettisoned, there was a prevailing feeling that the house was cohesive and had no need for a constitution.

The house government generally ran smoothly in spite of the absence of set rules, Patel said. "I don't think it was a problem until recently."

There are still some minor parts of the new constitution that need to be hammered out, but the constitution is more or less written, Patel said.

As to whether or not Senior House will want a new constitution, "it's really up to the residents more than anything else," she said. "It's possible that people won't want one."

"I have been proud of the willingness of the house and the house officers and the house tutors to pull together during a tricky period," said Senior House Housemaster Henry Jenkins, associate professor of literature.

"There had been some disputes among the house government members," but the new constitution will more clearly spell out lines of authority, something which will help to resolve disputes, Jenkins said.

"My sense is that after a series of meetings this weekend, we will be fully back on track."