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The Task Force and Freshman Housing

I am writing in response to the thoughtful and knowledgeable column by Dan McGuire '99 ["The Future and the Task Force," September 18] on the report by the Task Force for Student Life and Learning. I wish to clarify a point of apparent contradiction between McGuire's claim that the freshman-housing decision is "an organic part of the task force's report" and my repeated remarks that the decision was made in relative haste and without deliberation by the committee.

McGuire correctly notes that housing freshmen on campus provides many opportunities for a better freshman year that could not have existed in the old system. It also requires many losses to the community, the most wrenching being the abandonment of a popular system that worked well.

Like many other decisions, having freshmen on campus means a trade-off. The decision could not have been easy to make. However, I must reiterate that it was not made by the task force. I have publicly stated several times that the task force added freshmen on campus to its recommendations at the end of the process only after it became apparent that the decision was coming, in some form, inevitably.

Why is this so important to me? I do not regret signing the recommendation, even though I am saddened that it was necessary. However, if people think the task force spent any time deliberating on freshman housing, they will quickly ask some very good questions: "Why wasn't I involved in the process?" "Why didn't I know about the process?"

There is only one answer, and it is simple: There was no process of deliberation. This decision, made in haste, represented the task force's best effort to influence the coming changes for the better - toward a consciousness of the positive contributions by fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, and toward a clear recommendation that the FSILGs be supported, financially and otherwise, through the change.

McGuire's comments are thoughtful, wise, and mostly correct. But let me be clear: The decision was made in the upper administration and not in the task force.

Those who read the task force report will find over 50 pages of solid recommendations to take MIT in a bold, new direction; those who defend the preciousness and potential of residential life, and the value of out-of-classroom learning, will be the first to approve.

Jeremy D. Sher '99

Member, Task Force on Student

Life and Learning