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A Faulty Housing Proposal

Andrew J. Kim

It's been nearly two months since a tragic incident changed the way of life here at MIT. During that time, committees have been formed left and right to the point that few can keep track. Each committee has distinguished members, and holds open forums and town meetings to gather the consensus of the MIT community. Drastic changes have been proposed, yet few of them seem realistic or prudent.

The most ill-thought-out proposal out in the air is to house all freshmen on campus next fall in pre-assigned dorms. The first logistical problems that pops up in my mind is the lack of facilities to house another four hundred freshmen next year. I know MIT's done some amazing things in the past, but I can't foresee it building a brand new dorm by next August. That would mean large-scale crowding in the existing dorms that don't have a whole lot of extra space to begin with. One of the goals of this proposal is to build stronger relations within the MIT community, but having six roommates in a quad doesn't seem to accomplish that goal in any way.

Randomized housing is the other part of that proposal that I find faulty. One of the biggest decisions of Residence and Orientation Week is to find a home for the next four years. It is a process that everyone takes seriously because only the student (aside from the housing lottery for some) makes that important decision. As a result, people tend to be very happy with their living groups because they chose to live there. The same can't be said if every incoming freshmen got a letter in the mail sometime in July saying that they would be living in "X" House with John R. Smith '02 from Los Angeles and two others come fall. With the randomness comes a huge group of unhappy freshmen who want new housing assignments. This legion of disgruntled residents does very little to promote a sense of community, and at a harsh place like MIT, if a new student can't feel comfortable in his own room, then there are few places to turn to.

This housing change also alters the landscape for fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. Freshmen comprise one-fourth of most of these groups and to suddenly turn around and tell them that they can't have freshmen until IAP or even later seems improperly thought-out. The almost impulsive change given without proper notice would be very unfair to FSILGs, and some would have a hard time surviving given the unjust circumstances.

Changing the rush period would also hurt FSILGs in many ways. Rush works logistically as it is. I don't know how many freshmen would trek out in the dead of winter to check out FSILGs, and then have to move all belongings out of a dorm room to a new place without the generous aid of moving vans. Moving rush even later into the year creates even more logistical nightmares for FSILGs due to reductions in numbers and financial resources. Given the short time period of one year, few FSILGs would be able to cope with the drastic change.

The most interesting item of the freshmen housing proposal is the logic behind it or lack thereof. This proposal first came about at a meeting of the faculty, or the small contingent that actually attends the faculty meetings. Rather than a solution to the alcohol-related incident of two months ago, this proposal seems to be the brain-child of a few members of the faculty who have gripes against FSILGs, and now have the perfect opportunity to air them.

The proposal is a flashy way to gain public support, but it only skirts the underlying problem. The real issue here is to prevent another alcohol-related tragedy from happening; changing where a freshman lives does nothing to this effect because there is alcohol available in dorms as well. This proposal leads MIT right back to its current path while leaving FSILGs wounded on the side of the road.

The time will come soon for the various committees to release their recommendations, and for President Charles M. Vest and senior administration to make crucial decisions that will affect the way of life at MIT. I just hope their conclusions will be realistic and rational solutions to the real problems that exist here, not phony crowd-pleasers that accomplish nothing at the expense of the MIT community.