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Student Input in Housing

The recent announcement by Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow '72 calling for community input in a housing design contest is a welcome move by the administration. The Tech supports this request for community and student opinion, particularly at this early stage in the planning of the new housing and residence selection system. This is an unique opportunity for the MIT community to be involved in the formulation of a cohesive housing plan, both in the design and implementation stages.

Some of the major concerns of any new system are the role of the fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups and the extent to which the identity of residence halls can be preserved. The Tech has several recommendations that should be included in the revised residence selection system.

Working with the premise that all freshmen will be housed on campus, The Tech believes that it is important that a variety of housing choices be available. To this end, dormitory rush should be held in a similar fashion to the way it has been held in past years. Temporary housing should be assigned during Orientation, and the first weekend should provide a chance to investigate on-campus living options, including dormitories and language houses. In the absence of a competing fraternity rush, two to three days would be sufficient time to make adequate matches between freshmen and residence halls. While it has been suggested that freshmen could choose their residences based solely on booklets and preference cards, this solution is a poor substitute for actually seeing the facilities and meeting some of the residents of the various dormitories. In addition, floor rush, an important part of finding compatible floormates and roommates, should remain intact.

The role of FSILGs should be minimized during Orientation. However, it is possible to preserve the FSILG system through a revised rush and bidding process. The free flow of information is essential to any residence selection system; as such, freshmen should be free to socialize and visit FSILGs throughout the fall term. But no bids should be extended until after a dedicated rush week that could occur in the latter half of Independent Activities Period. The purposes of maintaining a dedicated rush period are twofold. First, it provides a chance for freshmen to learn about several FSILG options in addition to any they have visited during the fall. In addition, setting aside a period for rush, exclusive of the academic pressures of the regular term, will allow ambivalent freshmen who are uncertain about joining an FSILG the opportunity to be persuaded that an independent living option may be beneficial. The latter aspect is essential for improving the yield of rush and maintaining the diversity of the current FSILGsystem.

In the interest of furthering open communication with FSILGs, bids given out after this week of dedicated rush should be valid throughout the spring term; there should be no pressure to accept or lose a place in a house. This would allow houses that do not meet their quota to continue to encourage freshmen to investigate their options throughout the spring term. Pledge programs could occur over the summer or fall of sophomore year, when new members may move in to their choice of houses.

Another means of both improving yield and increasing housing choice is to make it easier to transfer between residence halls after the freshman year. If freshmen have found a housing option through dormitory rush that they are satisfied with, they should be allowed to remain in their residence. However, the inertia of the current system should be avoided; on a housing confirmation card, freshmen should indicate that they are satisfied with their current choice of housing and should be given the option to request a change, rather than remaining in the same dormitory by default. This would also make the transition to living in an FSILG easier, further improving yields.

The transition to a modified housing system will be difficult for FSILGs. For the year of 20012002, with no freshman or sophomore pledge class, many houses will be below capacity. MIT should financially compensate houses to the extent that a house bill will not increase any more than a dormitory house bill increases that year. This will prevent individual members of FSILGs from bearing a burden in the form of a house bill that jumps from $2,500 to $4,000.

While the transition to a new housing system with freshmen on campus will be difficult, with decreased FSILGyields and potentially more crowding even with a new dorm, it is possible to find a solution that preserves the positive aspects of the current system. Hopefully, with the input of students through the impending design contest, a satisfactory compromise will be found on the numerous aspects of the housing system.