All Freshmen to Live in Dormitories Starting in 2001ByDouglas E. Heimburger
Editor in Chief
All freshmen will be housed in dormitories starting in the fall of 2001, President Charles M. Vest announced yesterday evening after the Academic Council unanimously endorsed the proposal.
"This decision represents a major step in our commitment to enhancing our educational community and better integrating student life and learning,"Vest wrote in a letter to students, faculty, and staff.
The announcement was timed to occur shortly before next week's release of the final report of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning. The task force has been working for two years to develop a long-term educational plan for the Institute. The report will urge the Institute to house all freshmen on campus, said Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams.
"The task force report is a much broader report than this," Williams said. It includes many sections on changing curricula, educational programs, and community programs in addition to the section on freshmen housing.
Vest's decision was made based upon the task force report and "nearly a year of thoughtful debate and correspondence about student housing."Vest also considered the reports of numerous committees that in the past have recommended housing freshmen on campus.
FSILGs endorsed, protected
While the changes will have definite effects on all living groups, administration officials were quick to note that the plan for housing freshmen in dormitories does not preclude the existence of the fraternity, sorority, and independent living group system.
"I don't think anyone can promise every bed and every house will remain unchanged,"Williams said. Nonetheless, "we're out to maintain and strengthen"the FSILGsystem in the face of outside pressures and a changing environment.
The task force report calls upon the Institute to provide "transitional financial assistance"to FSILGs during the period of change, Williams said.
The Academic Council informally agreed yesterday that the FSILGsystem should be protected during the period of change, Williams said.
Choice preserved in system
The Academic Council also endorsed allowing freshmen to have some choice in their dormitory assignments, Williams said.
"We're not going to a strictly randomized system"of dormitory assignment, Williams said, although changes to the lottery such as preselection may be discussed in the upcoming years.
Additionally, the Academic Council and the task force both are supporting the housing of freshmen in dormitories that also house upperclassmen. The extent and ratios of freshmen to upperclassmen in the dormitory system after 2001 will be discussed in the future, Williams said.
Many decisions yet to be made
Although the decision to house all freshmen on campus has been made, the details of how the residence system will look in three years have not yet been decided.
This fall, students, administrators, alumni, and alumnae will begin to work on plans for the new residence system, Williams said, beginning with the plans for the new dormitory.
In additions, discussions will need to begin on details of residence selection, advising, rush, and other matters, Williams said. "The principal is established. There's a lot of design to go."
"We have to look at how patterns of choice will change"among residence halls and FSILGs, she said.
The decision came as a surprise to Interfraternity Council President Duane H. Dreger '99, who had attended a meeting with Williams earlier in the day about the task force report.
"[Tuesday] morning, Ihad told people from the IFCto ignore it for ten days and to focus with the issue at hand - rush,"Dreger said. "We figured we'd work on it at the beginning of term."
Dreger said that the FSILG system should be able to remain intact even with the changes. "The FSILGs have a remarkable ability to adapt," he said. "Idon't think we'd lose anyone from it."
Having three years to plan for the change will hopefully make it easier for the FSILGs to adapt, he said. Nonetheless, the future decisions regarding the timing and rules of rush "will more directly impact the survivability of houses,"Dreger said.
The transition to having freshmen on campus will "make or break"the system, he said.
This year's rush will likely not be affected by the announcement, Williams said. In deciding to announce the plans, the greater fear was keeping information from freshmen than affecting the upcoming rush.
"Most freshmen are going to be persuaded by their personal contacts when they rush," she said. "The message is not anything negative about FSILGs to freshmen."
Dreger said he thought some houses may increase their target levels for pledges this year in order to prepare for the changeover in three years.