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Many Students Express Opinions At Open Faculty Housing Forum

Karlene M. Rosera -- The Tech
Jay P. Muchnij G argues against housing all freshmen on campus at an open forum for students and faculty in 34-101 on Wednesday night.

By Naveen Sunkavally

On Wednesday evening over 100 students, faculty, and administrators gathered to discuss whether freshmen should be housed on campus.

The forum was held in response to Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Stephan L. Chorover's motion at the last faculty calling for all freshmen to be housed on campus starting next fall.

Perhaps the most vociferously debated issue at the meeting was the issue of randomized dormitory housing. The controversy followed a recent recommendation by the Committee on the First Year Program to randomize all freshman housing.

Professor of Physics Thomas J. Greytak '62, chair of the committee, said MIT students need to "capitalize on the great diversity of the undergraduate population" and start on a level playing field.

Speaking to the fear that randomization could kill many fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, Greytak said that there could be a thriving FSILG system without freshmen.

Among all peer colleges across the nation, MIT has the largest proportion of freshmen off campus, at 35 percent, Greytak said, compared with 10 percent at the the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley, where off-campus living is "strongly discouraged."

Rush should be moved to the spring term or the Independent Activities Period, Greytak added.

Students oppose randomized dormitory selection

Every student who spoke at the forum opposed randomization."Housing is a very private matter," said Omri Schwartz G. "No choice is worse than an uninformed choice."

Self-selection should not be sacrificed for the sake of diversity, said Nathan J. Williams '98.

"It is up to students to decide how much they want to diversify themselves," said Aisha D. Stroman '00. Randomized housing would destroy the sense of family she currently feels at her dormitory, she said.

Jonathan S. White '00 said that randomized housing would reduce the retention rate for black students.

Jeremy H. Brown G, a former resident of Senior House, said randomized housing would increase the number of housing complaints, especially since Senior House "is a place you either love or hate."

Other students felt that MIT would no longer be treating students like adults if it switched to randomization. Randomization would only "spread out the drinking problem," said Erik L. Nygren G.

Students, faculty debate move

Many students had logistical concerns with Chorover's proposals. Aisha D. Stroman '00 questioned how freshmen could fit in the dormitories, asking, "Are you really considering the effect of moving all freshmen onto campus?"

Jay P. Muchnij G said, "We don't need freshmen on campus" and that perhaps the administration should restrict the number of off-campus residences with the title "freshman-approved housing."

"Having been admitted on their merits, students' first experience should be intellectual, not social," Chorover said.

Rush is an "inherently egalitarian experience" and "randomization would provide a challenge" for students, Chorover said.

This statement prompted several students to point out the differences in the education level of incoming freshmen and joke about their failures on the Freshman Essay Evaluation.

Extinction of ILGs questioned

Another significant issue was the possible extinction of some independent living groups.

Some students and faculty members said that ILGs could survive with freshmen on campus. Dormitory Council President Ashesh P. Shah '98 said, "I don't know how delayed rush would reduce the ILGs."

Professor of Physics Wit Busza said, "If something folds because of the action, they probably deserve to fold anyway."

Other students, particularly those in ILGs, voiced financial concerns and the fear that incoming freshmen would be stripped of their decision-making ability. Moving rush to spring or later would cause freshmen who have been mired in academics to be reluctant to investigate ILGs after spending time living in dorms, Muchnij said.

"Everyone [was] in agreement about informed choice" at the meeting, and most students thought lengthening R/O instead of moving it to a later time would be better, said Chair of the Faculty Lotte Bailyn.

Professor of Architecture Emeritus Leon B. Groisser doubted that students could choose their residence in the current hectic time allotted for rush.

Chienta J. Wu '00 ran to the chalkboard to outline his proposal of a seven-day rush and five-day orientation period in which faculty and students would form "hiking and Athena-cluster groups."

Students discuss faculty positions

There was also a great deal of emphasis on greater interaction between faculty and students. Some students were disappointed that the faculty chose to propose something at its last faculty without asking for student input.

Dean of Undergraduate Curriculum Kip V. Hodges PhD '82 said, "I want to the emphasize the word Œdialogue.' I've heard a lot of positionsŠ but very little Œdialogue.'"

"Faculty need to extend into students lives" more than they do under the current system, said Glenn R Berry '97.

Several students said they felt that their opinions didn't matter and that at a better meeting time more students would have shown up. One student pointed out that no faculty were lined up to speak at the microphone, a statement after which several faculty members moved immediately to line up.

Halston W. Taylor, associate professor of athletics and housemaster of Burton-Connor House, presented a "challenge to his colleagues" in the faculty to become more personally involved in student affairs.