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Vest Defends Housing Decision in Address to Faculty

By Rima Arnaout

In an address to the faculty Wednesday, President Charles M. Vest discussed the implications of his recent decision to house all freshmen on campus beginning fall 2001.

Vest expressed his confidence in the decision to house all freshman on campus, especially in light of last fall's death of freshman Scott Krueger. Groups such as the working group on dangerous drinking and the committee on the first year program have all stated in the past that placing all freshmen on campus will create a healthier environment during their first weeks at MIT.

In his speech, Vest also stressed that "fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups are and will continue to be important elements of our campus life. We do not expect all the houses to go through [the change in freshman housing policy] without some help, financial and otherwise, from the Institute."

Vest acknowledged that outside pressures such as the grand jury investigation into the death ofScott S. Krueger '01 played a role in his decision. "This topic was an explicit part of the questioning and line of inquiry"when Vest appeared before the grand jury.

"It was prudent to keep up momentum and announcements prior to the conclusion of the grand jury's investigation,"Vest added.

The housing decision was "insufficiently consultative with faculty and students,"Vest said, but there were "extraordinary circumstances."

Vest further discussed the next steps in building a new residential system for the fall of 2001. Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Paul E. Gray '54 and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Edward F. Crawley will serve on a faculty advisory group to that end, while Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow '74 and Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams will lead discussion about the new undergraduate residence hall in particular.

In addition, Vest called for a student advisory group on the residence system consisting of representatives of the Undergraduate Association, the Interfraternity Council, and the task force on student life and learning. In an attempt to bring student and faculty opinions together, an open meeting about the new residence system will take place Thursday at 7 p.m. in Room 10-250.

Task force reports findings

Student life continued to be the focus of the faculty meeting as Vest turned the floor over to Professors Robert J. Silbey and R. John Hansman, Jr., the co-chairs of the task force on student life and learning.

The task force members have been compiling information for the past two years on the quality of student life and proposing suggestions for improving relations between different members of the MIT community.

In their presentation to the faculty, Silbey and Hansman identified weaknesses at MIT such as poor relations between departments and between living groups. In addition, the task force co-chairs highlighted the faculty's responsibility to bridge departmental gaps and to improve student welfare and the opportunities for hands-on research in addition to academics.

To this end, the task force calls for the formation of a strategic Planning group. Led by Vest, Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow '72, and Provost Robert A. Brown, the group will streamline the faculty committee structure so that it can build the task force's "educational triad" of academics, research, and community.

Asked for comment by Silbey and Hansman, faculty agreed on the importance of "getting plugged into the education of the individual" as task force member Professor J. Kim Vandiver said, but there was question about how feasible more community-building action might be; with MIT's academics, students and faculty don't always have time for "creating community."

New degree announced

The faculty meeting opened with Professor of Material Science and Engineering Linn W. Hobbs' presentation a proposal for new interdepartmental doctoral degree in archaeological materials.

Administered by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the new doctoral program is meant to address the overlapping of materials science and archaeology since analyzing materials is the principal way in which archaeologists learn about the past.