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Fair Weather Friends to FSILGs

Guest Column Benjamin M. Adida

Is anyone else out there disappointed? Disgusted? Just plain nauseous? I am.

For about three months, I've felt cheated by a group of people who are supposed to be looking out for the student population and who, until recently, spoke fondly of independent living groups and how they are an "integral part of campus life." I'm talking about our administration, represented by President Charles M. Vest and Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams.

Why the nausea? Let's start from the beginning:

Sept. 30, 1997: Vest promises to "set in motion a campus-wide dialogue" after the Scott S. Krueger '01 tragedy.

Oct. 3, 1997: Vest declares "this [tragedy] could have happened anywhere," and it turns out, given recent events, that he was quite right. He adds, "[The Institute] has always tried to provide freedom of choice [in the housing system]."

Oct. 24, 1997: Williams says, "We have to have [Interfraternity Council] and [Dormitory Council] representation [in working groups]," and adds, "There are a lot of radical proposals going around [but] when people look at MIT, they see a very fine institution. The plan is to keep the current system and augment it."

At that time, I was deeply involved with the IFC committees. I was spending up to six hours each week in IFC meetings in an attempt to show goodwill to the administration through self-regulation. Those words from the administration soothed me. It seemed clear that they understood that independent living groups were not responsible for Krueger's tragic death, because "it could have happened anywhere." The plan was "to keep the current system." The administration seemed a true friend of ILGs; they were going to help us deal with the load of media coverage and criticism that already then appeared inevitable.

But things changed. Threats of lawsuits, fines, and having to take responsibility for backing the ILG system quickly changed the administration's tone. After Independent Activities Period, the administration was no longer the same.

Feb. 13: A new group made up only of administrators prescribes a new format for orientation that basically recommends an even quicker, less informative Rush than before. Recommendations made jointly by IFC and Dormcon concerning the lengthening of Rush are ignored. The proposal is so out of touch with reality that the administration is forced to change it within a week.

July 8: After a period of silence, the administration decides that resident advisers will be mandatory at all ILGs in barely two months' time. Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow '72 admits that with regard to the quickened pace with which RAs would be mandatory in the FSILG system, "students have not been involved in the discussion." The timing is horrible as most ILG members at the time were not in the Boston area.

Aug. 5: Twenty days before Rush, MIT still does not have a full contract for RAs in ILGs, and hasn't made a final decision on how to fund them.

Aug. 25: In a terrible blow to the ILGs, MIT announces just before Rush that all freshmen will be housed on campus in 2001.

As fraternities and ILGs attempt to cope with the news, Rush begins. After a year of intense media coverage, criticism, and lack of support from the administration, 316 freshmen join ILGs. Numerous other students, while having chosen dorms, still express appreciation for the choice they were given. A few weeks later, the platform of most freshman class president candidates includes lobbying the administration to reverse this housing decision. The IFC officially expresses their disagreement with the decision.

But is anyone listening? Does anyone care what students think? Certainly not our dear administration. Vest, the originator of the "campus-wide dialogue" idea, last week boldly stated in The Tech that he will not be bullied ["IFC Resolution Condemns Freshman Housing Decision," Oct. 6].

Is that what one calls listening to students these days? Being bullied? And yet we learn that the administration is the one who "bullied" the Task Force on Student Life andLearning into adding a freshman on campus clause to their recommendation.

Well, I have one thing to say to all ILGs: take a stand, and set an ultimatum. Don't just sit there and let the administration walk all over the students of this "fine institution."

For months now, the IFC has cooperated with every demand the administration has made. This administration tricked the student body into thinking they wouldn't make such a ridiculous decision, and yet they have. There is no reason to trust them or to do them any favors anymore. Who knows what further actions they may take to hurt the ILGs? Who knows what further actions they may take to hurt anyone else? It's time to fight back.

How? Ask yourself how the administration controls ILGs in the first place. ILGs could just leave the IFC and be on their own, right? Not quite, but that's the right idea. The administration has this tricky clause they use to prevent this: freshman-approved housing. If you leave IFC, you can no longer house freshmen.

Aha! There's the flaw. In two years, ILGs won't house freshmen anyways! In the meantime, though, MIT does not have enough housing for all freshmen (unless it wants to kick everyone out of Tang Hall).

So, here's what can be done. IFC, dissolve yourself. Forget you ever existed. Burn your constitution. And stop listening to the administration who never really stopped to listen to you in the first place. You won't be able to house freshmen in two years, so why not do it on your terms? With a united front, we can change things. If there's any issue worth protesting, this is it. This is the big one.

And to all the supportive alumni who have been insulted by Vest's clear declaration that he wouldn't listen to a word they say, simply send that money to your ILG so they can deal with the no-freshman transition.

The administration hasn't done anything for ILGs this past year. In fact, it's listened more to the Boston Globe than to the student body. This is simply unacceptable. ILGs should follow our president's example: don't let yourself be bullied.

Benjamin M. Adida is a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.