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Faculty Reject Move To House All Frosh On Campus in 1998: New motion promotes faculty interaction

By Frank Dabek
Associate News Editor

At its Wednesday meeting, the faculty approved by voice vote a substitute motion proposed by Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Stephan L. Chorover stating the sense of the faculty on the issue of freshmen housing and orientation.

The faculty also heard reports from the ad hoc committee to review the alcohol policy and the advisory group on orientation and residence 1998.

The motion approved by the faculty contained six points and called for an examination of MIT's residential system, characterized the faculty's view of the way freshmen should be introduced to MIT, recommended increased ties between faculty and students and urged that the proposed undergraduate dormitory be used as an opportunity to experiment with the design of a residence.

The motion stated that all its initiatives would be based on input from students, staff, faculty, and alumni and that reports would be presented on a timely basis.

Chorover substitutes new motion

This motion was substituted for a motion which Chorover proposed at the last faculty meeting. The previous motion read: "It is the sense of the faculty that, commencing with the academic year 1998, every effort be made to ensure that all first-year students live on campus."

In introducing the substitute motion, which differed radically from his original motion, Chorover said that he had seen "enormous change in the last month." He cited the "persuasiveness of arguments on all sides" and said that he had "never seen as many people saying the same thing."

Bettina Voelker '89, professor of civil and environmental engineering, who was opposed to the original motion, seconded the substitute motion. This motion contains a "large number of things we can agree on," Voelker said at the meeting. Voelker encouraged the faculty to be "open to gradual change and experimentation with the residential system."

There was debate on the motion, and it was amended slightly.

Professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Charles C. Counselman was the most vocal opponent of the plan. Referring to the clause which advocated "bringing the system into fuller alignment with MIT's educational mission," Counselman said, "life is multi-dimensional and MIT's educational system does not span that whole space." Continuing a vector space metaphor, he said, "Living groups help our students to mature and to learn the orthogonal components" of life.

President Emeritus Paul E. Gray '54 proposed an amendment striking the clause "including a delay of rush for those students who want it." The amendment passed 41-16.

Neal H. Dorow, associate dean and adviser to fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups said after the meeting that the clause "might have been redundant." Dorow said that under current rules, "after R/O ends, an ILG is free to rush" and is limited only by students' own constraints.

Iddo Gilon '98, president of the Interfraternity Council, said that the clause was a"residue of the earlier motion."

Professor of Literature Henry Jenkins, housemaster for Senior House, proposed a friendly amendment to add a clause to the final point which stipulated that reports would be released "to the MIT community" as well as to the faculty. Chorover accepted the amendment.

Most in favor of motion

The motion as amended was passed by a voice vote of the faculty. President Charles M. Vest said that he was "pleased" with the motion as passed by the faculty.

"I do not believe it would have been appropriate to ask all freshmen to live on campus in the fall of 1998," Vest said of the previous motion.

Vest said that he hoped the motion would lead to a "stronger sense of overall community within MIT" while maintaining the diversity of individual living groups. "There is strength in that diversity."

Chorover, who proposed the original "sense of the faculty" motion, called his original motion "really an attempt to learn what the sense of the faculty is." I was "never and not now primarily interested in moving freshmen to campus," Chorover said. We now have the chance to "move the system to a better level of stability," he said.

Christopher D. Beland '00, president of Fenway House, said that the meeting "went spectacularly. This was incredibly positive." Beland administered an ilg-talk mailing list for interested students to contribute to the debate. There is "no question that we influence the debate," he said of the group. The "recommendations contained a lot that we talked about at meetings and published," he said.

Undergraduate Association President Dedric A. Carter '98, said that the motion was "excellent a plus for all parts of the community."

Interim alcohol policy presented

At the meeting, Associate Provost Phillip L. Clay presented a proposal for the interim alcohol policy report. The report was produced by a three-person committee consisting of Director of the Campus Activities Complex Phillip J. Walsh, Stephen D. Immerman, director of special projects, and Clay.

No students sat on the committee but the committee met with many student groups including the Graduate Student Council, UA, IFC, and Dormitory Council. The "quality of conversation has been extraordinary for [it's] thoughtful, intelligent" nature, Clay said.

The policies proposed by the committee include extending the ban on the use of Institute funds to purchase alcohol where persons under 21 will be present. Exceptions will be made for events which receive "prior approval."

The definition of funds was broadened to include not just money in MIT accounts but also funds held by FSILGs, residence halls, or those associated with an MIT-sponsored event off campus. "We didn't leave any loopholes," Clay said. Any event which can be "characterized and understood as an MIT event" will be included in the ban.

The report's policies were developed under a set of principles including support for the responsible use of alcohol and the right of the MIT community to "establish a set of standards of behavior." Clay said that one problem lies in the belief that the "use of alcohol comprises the social life available on campus."

The report also affirmed that the "faculty and administration have a responsibility for enforcing" policy. The report placed the responsibility for the enforcement with the Dean of Students.

The interim report has yet to be approved but Vest said he hoped that "by Tuesday [to] make a firm decision."

R/O report presented

The final report presented at the meeting was made by the O/R committee chaired by Professor of OceanEngineering Kim J. Vandiver. The committee, which was created three weeks ago, contained four students.

The committee first deliberated on the feasibility of housing all freshmen on campus in the fall of 1998 and reported that "the human cost was basically unacceptable" and that moving freshmen was "not to be recommended for fall '98."

Improving R/O became the focus of the group following this decision. The group worked under a number of principles including increasing "early and lasting interactions between faculty and students," emphasizing the intellectual excitement and academic reality of MIT, and developing the "whole person."

The group then made a number of suggestions for improving R/O. The group suggested renaming R/O "orientation," arranging for freshmen to receive a phone call from a professor during the summer, holding important orientation events before rush, orienting students to the traditions of MIT, and changing the way placement tests are run to place an emphasis on "early rewards."

Changing the way residences are selected was also a major focus of the report. Vandiver spoke of the need to "tone down the intensity of rush." While maintaining that the focus of R/O should lie with the interests of incoming students "as opposed to the best interests of the FSILGs" the committee proposed several changes.

The report suggested restricting unsolicited mailings in an attempt to "increase signal/noise," Vandiver said. A comprehensive and impartial guide to residences was also proposed. The "intent [is to] create a positive, competitive environment," he said. The report also suggested increasing opportunities during pre-frosh spring, creating an activities midway, and reducing hard flushing and anti-rush.

Vandiver also proposed changing the process of maintaining freshman-approved housing status to a "periodic event with teeth in it." The "housing system has had us over a barrel [the] proposal of having a dorm does loosen up the system," he said.

R/O report well received

Vest called the report an "extraordinarily good job in a short period of time." He also applauded the "strong congruence with [the alcohol policy committee's] report and the IFC."

Dorow said that "if the recommendations are accepted I think it will have a positive effect" on R/O. "I hope freshmen will be given a little more time" to make their decision, Dorow said.

Dorow noted that William W. Shen '98 sat on both this committee and the IFC committee which created a proposal for R/O in 1998. Shen "was in a position to represent the IFC community very well," Dorow said.

Gilon said that he was "very happy to see that much of the IFC's proposal was adopted." Gilon called the report a "real breakthrough in communication between students and faculty."