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Students Prepare Presentations of Residential Design Proposals

By Karen E. Robinson

As part of the Reinventing Residence Life at MIT design contest, teams of students, faculty, staff, and alumni are working this week on residence design systems, to be presented to the Steering Committee for Residence Design.

Teams will present their proposals for Orientation, academic advising, and residence selection starting in 2001 in a public forum to be held in 10-250 at 1:00 p.m. Friday.

The steering committee will use the ideas presented by the various groups to create a final residence design proposal, which will be completed at the end of this term or the beginning of the fall.

A contest was the best way to involve community members in planning the new system, said Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow '72. This is obviously a systems problem, and "much of the wisdom needed could only be found with the community," Bacow said.

Dean of Students Kirk Kolenbrander '60, who is running the contest, called the contest a "bold new experience for MIT," a wide open opportunity for students to participate in administrative decisions. "The Institute is saying,We want your help.'"

At least one student from each designed team attended four open discussions last week.

Each session had a different focus: examination of the current system, discussion of possibilities, considerations of system design, and helping each team develop a plan, Kolenbrander said. At the first session, a panel of five members addressed questions about the current system.

Each team will use the framework set up by those meetings to design a workable system. Teams will also submit web-ready descriptions of their plans; designs will likely be available on the Internet on Friday afternoon.

The steering committee was formed last November, with Executive Vice President of the Alumni Association William J. Hecht '61 as chair. Members include four students, two alumni, and four faculty and staff members.

The committee shaped the design contest and helped suggest attributes of the system that should be considered. For the committee, the real work will begin after Friday's design presentations; the steering committee will then consider all the submissions and incorporate them into a final plan.

The new undergraduate dormitory, to open in 2001, is one element of the design, but certainly not the only element, Hecht said. The committee is also looking for input on improving dining and the overall residential experience.

Two teams that participate in the contest will be recognized for their work. The first team will receive a trip for up to six participants to visit Cambridge University in England. The second team will receive a trip for six members to visit either Stanford University or the California Institute of Technology.

Both groups will then report back to the steering committee with their thoughts on those school's systems.

Participants are enthusiastic

Students involved in the competition seem enthusiastic about the opportunity to help mold the Institute's future. "This is a chance to make a significant impact on the system," said Matt McGann '00, member of one design team and co-chair of the Undergraduate Association's committee on housing and orientation. "I felt that there was no way I couldn't do it."

Kishore Kuchibhotla '02, member of another team, said, "Not a lot of administrations around the country would do this I figured, Why not give it a try?'" Kuchibhotla also mentioned that the MIT student body is a diverse community, and that the chance to help design how students live is appropriate.

Administrators will not know for certain how many teams are submitting designs until the team registration deadline, which is tonight at midnight. Hecht and Kolenbrander estimated that between five and nine teams would make presentations, however.