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Two Teams Win IAP Design Contest

By Eric Sit
STAFF REPORTER

Two teams, the Beaver Dream Team and the Dorm-Design Team, were recently named co-winners of MIT’s IAP Residential Design Contest. Both teams will share the first and second place prizes, which include trips to view the housing systems at Cambridge University in Cambridge, England, Stanford University, or the California Institute of Technology.

The idea of holding an IAP residential design contest was announced last fall by Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72 to challenge the MIT community to develop a residential design that would address a series of “compelling questions” and lay out a design for the future of MIT’s residence system. The contest was held from January 19-29 and was run by the Residential System Steering Committee. In addition to choosing the winners, the RSSC will write their own residential design proposal drawing ideas from the eleven groups who participated in the contest. This final report will be submitted to Bacow in the fall.

Beaver Dream Team

According to the Beaver Dream Team proposals, the ideal residence system would include first-year houses, upper-class residences, fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, family houses, and graduate houses. The guiding principle of the team’s proposal is to foster a sense of community and class pride.

“We wanted to concentrate the freshman experience in the residence halls,” said Ricky A. Gresh, Program Coordinator of the Residential Life Office, and a member of the Beaver Dream Team.

Seventy-five percent of the residents in first-year houses will be freshmen, and each of the freshman buildings will have a dining facility. These houses will be the hub of special freshman support programs.

The freshman advising system would be heavily concentrated in the freshman dormitory. Advisers would live in the dormitory, and freshmen could go to them for help, Gresh said.

According to the Beaver Dream Team plan, freshmen would rush for upperclassmen housing at the end of the second term. Upperclassmen would be forced out of freshman housing unless they agreed to be an associate adviser, Gresh said.

Gresh believes it will not be difficult to encourage upperclassmen to live in the freshman residences. Most other campuses have no difficulty in doing it, Gresh said.

“What made this exciting was we said: Sky’s the limit. Start from scratch. See what we can come up with,” said team organizer Elizabeth C. Young, coordinator of student programs in the Office of Academic Advisers.

The Beaver Dream Team is composed of approximately half students or alumni and half administrators. Most of the students, however, have worked closely with the administration in the course of participating in student government activities. In addition to Gresh and Young, the other team members are Association of Student Activities President Van L. Chu ’99, John-Paul B. Clarke ’91, Associate Dean of Students Mary Z. Enterline, Matthew P. Lahaie ’01, Associate Dean Alberta G. Lipson, Association of Student Activities Treasurer Mathew L. McGann ’00, Undergraduate Association Floor Leader Ryan K. Pierce ’99, Catholic Chaplain Paul Reynolds, and Ri Romano, assistant registrar for student information.

Dorm-Design Team looks at ILGs

The Dorm-Design residence system proposal includes residence halls, theme houses, and affiliated housing. The focus of the Dorm-Design proposal was to allow current living groups to convert themselves voluntarily into theme houses with strong MIT affiliations and connections.

“Our approach was to think about what kind of things MIT was looking for housing in terms of programming, exposing people to a good first year experience, and getting involved with the MIT community,” said team organizer Alice M. Man ’93.

Residence halls and qualified theme houses would be the only type of living groups to house freshmen. These living groups would receive dedicated administrative support and funding for programming, according to the proposal.

Theme houses would be housed in dormitory subunits. The theme houses would focus on a particular theme, such as “Russian language,” “cooperative learning,” or “substance-free” housing. Students could even associate themselves with a theme house even if they do not live there. In order for theme houses to have freshmen, they would need to meet stricter requirements in terms of community activities.

Affiliated housing would include any FSILG that does not become a theme house. The affiliated living groups would be like theme houses, but would not need to follow all the criteria for freshman housing. However, affiliated housing groups would need to follow several requirements set by the Office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs and evaluated by the Student Life Council.

We’re not asking them to do a lot of stuff they are not doing right now,” Man said. “Most fraternities are involved with the Interfraternity Council and have a lot of community service projects. However, it would be nice if the houses at fraternities had explicit qualifications.

“MIT doesn’t ask for much from its fraternities,” Man said.

The Dorm-Design team is composed mostly of students and alumni. Besides Man, other members are Christopher Beland ’00, Program in Writing Lecturer Matthew K. Belmonte, Abbe J. Cohen ’97, Jason A. Gratt ’93, Yvonne L. Lai ’01, Epsilon Theta Resident Adviser Jan-Willem Maessen ’93, David Z. Maze ’00, Sarah L. McDougal ’00, Bettina Voelker ’89, and Paul-Gabriel Wiener ’01.

“I think we weren’t really into the competitive aspect of the contest. Everyone wanted to get together to write ideas in order to express them to the steering committee,” Man said. “However, it’s sort of nice to be recognized as having contributed.”

Each of the eleven proposals submitted to the contest was reviewed and ranked by each member of the RSSC.

The RSSC found it difficult to select the two teams to receive the first and second place prizes, according to William J. Hecht, executive vice president of the Alumni Association and chair of the committee. As a result, the committee decided that the Beaver Dream and the Dorm-Design Team would share the first and second place prizes,The Beaver Dream and Dorm-Design team will both contribute members to the Cambridge, England trip and the California trip.

“I was delighted with the quality and remarkable ideas submitted and was particularly and deeply impressed with the two proposals selected as the winners,” said Kirk D. Kolenbrander, staff in the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education, who served on the RSSC .

The RSSC will consider the strongest ideas from each of the eleven proposals and use them to create one or more formal proposals to be offered to the MIT community in April and May for discussion, according to Hecht. The feedback from the community discussion will be used to create at least one final proposal to Bacow no later than Sept. 1, 1999.

“It is important to understand that the steering committee’s intent was that the designs submitted in the contest is the first step of a many month process,” Kolenbrander said.

All of the residence system proposals submitted to the contest can be found at <http://web.mit.edu/residence/systemdesign/>.