Paving the Way for Radical Change
At this month's faculty meeting on Wednesday, Stephan L. Chorover, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, presented a motion that all incoming freshmen be housed on campus, beginning with the Class of 2002. We endorse this proposal. While housing all freshmen on campus will represent a colossal change in the housing system, it will integrate freshmen into the larger MIT community and provide students with more time to make informed choices about where they want to live.
In the current housing system, students form allegiances to their living group first, and often only their living group. By housing all freshmen on campus, students will form close ties with a wider, more diverse group of people. Perhaps more importantly, they will gain the sense that their allegiance is to MIT, and to the education that they receive here, rather than to the particular living group they happen to choose during the first few days on campus. Students and faculty have long criticized the absence of a united student body, and have targeted the division between dormitories and fraternities as evidence of this lack of unity. Housing all freshmen on campus will go a long way toward bridging that gap, and creating a united campus community.
One of the problems with the current system is that it does not give incoming students enough time to make wise or informed decisions about where they will live. Housing freshmen on campus will solve many of the problems with MIT's rush system, which forces freshmen to chose their living group before learning anything else about life at MIT. With only four days to choose, many students make poor choices. Given more time to learn about each house's character, students could make a far better judgement about where they ultimately want to reside.
Beyond bridging the divisions among students, housing freshmen on campus opens the door to increased student-faculty interaction. Simply bringing students geographically closer to where the faculty work will not suffice to bring this about, however. Faculty ways must change as well. There must be increased opportunities for mentoring and more informal interaction between students and faculty. If the faculty is interested in forming connections with students outside of the classroom, housing freshmen on campus will further this goal.
Admittedly, the plan to house freshmen on campus will have severe short-term consequences. In order to house all freshmen on campus as early as next year, MIT will have to admit a significantly fewer students, or drastically increase dormitory crowding. The fraternity system will face major changes as well, so major that it is impossible to predict what the system will look like several years down the road. We believe that the positive aspects of fraternity life, such as the strong communities and leadership opportunities it provides, will remain intact. Fraternities will find new and better ways of attracting students to their houses and promoting their living system.
Housing all freshmen on campus next fall will improve the sense of community at MIT and give students an opportunity to make better-informed choices about where to live. Such a change will result in a major transformation of the entire MIT community. Changing the system will have varying effects on individual living groups, but the long-term effects on the community, as well as on the fraternity system, will be positive. Housing freshmen on campus will be a change for the better, and we hope the faculty, administration, and student body will show the necessary leadership to bring about this change.