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Affected Students Have Qualms About New Proposal

By Kevin R. Lang

Since the Residence System Steering Committee first presented its preliminary report Tuesday, students and faculty have voiced strong opposition to many of the proposed changes to MIT residential life.

Residents of Ashdown House and MacGregor House voiced criticism at the proposal that Ashdown be turned into a primarily freshman residence and MacGregor become a graduate dorm. While Ashdown Housemaster Vernon M. Ingram praised many of the report’s proposals, he thought that “new residence proposals must serve both the undergraduate student body and the graduate students. The two groups are interdependent in their needs.”

Ingram said that he has heard nothing but “dismay” from Ashdown residents over the prospect of moving to MacGregor. “I have not yet heard any good arguments for converting Ashdown to a mostly freshman dormitory in preference to other locations,” Ingram said. Additionally, “Ashdown is the only graduate residence at MIT that has a real community, very important to many students especially the many foreign students,” he said.

Ashdown residents were no less upset by the proposed move to MacGregor. “Ashdown House has the strongest graduate community on campus and I am shocked that MIT wants to destroy it,” said Thomas H. Burbine G. “I will never give a cent to MIT if they turn Ashdown into an undergraduate dorm.”

Ron O. Dror G, another Ashdown resident, said that he hopes the administration “realizes that for many top students, non-academic issues related to housing, social atmosphere, and quality of life play a major role in the choice of graduate schools.” Dror was also concerned that the move to MacGregor would hurt Ashdown’s sense of community, partly because of the potential loss of the Thirsty Ear Pub.

While the vast majority of Ashdown residents would be relocated to MacGregor, most MacGregor residents would be dispersed to other dorms with Ashdown as the proposed freshman hall. MacGregor House President Edgardo J. Jimenez ’00 said that he was concerned about the future of the dorm.

“Right now everyone is kind of worried about what’s going to happen,” Jimenez said. “They didn’t ask us for feedback before coming up with the proposal.” The MacGregor house committee met Wednesday night, and Jimenez said that “everyone is completely opposed” to the proposal.

MacGregor D-Entry Chair Aaron D. Adler ’01 was concerned that the committee’s suggestions might not have been considered carefully enough. “Reversing this decision would be very hard. I am not sure why the freshman dorm couldn’t be the new dorm if Vassar street will be revitalized in the long term,” Adler said. “I am most upset about the Sept. 1 deadline to finalize the proposal. I really think there needs to be more time to discuss the issues.”

FSILGs oppose move to IAP rush

Another proposal the report mentions which has generated controversy is the new system of an Independent Activities Period rush for the fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups.

While the Interfraternity Council has not yet met to discuss an official position on the report, several house presidents were concerned with the proposed changes to rush and FSILG policies.

“As a whole, I think the proposal contains many elements that will improve the residence system,” said William R. Dichtel ’00, Delta Tau Delta president and chair of the IFC’s 2001 Transition Committee. However, Dichtel thought the proposals regarding rush could be greatly improved.

The IFC will most likely suggest that rush remain in August, Dichtel said. Dichtel also said that houses would rush throughout the fall term despite the fact that the official rushing period was during IAP. “If rush were during IAP, it would surprise me if that did not happen,” Dichtel said. He added that such fall rushing could not really be prevented unless MIT banned contact with first-year students altogether.

Additionally, “having rush during IAP has logistical problems associated with it,” Dichtel said. Winter weather would deter freshmen from going into Boston to visit FSILGs and many students might not be back on campus for an IAP rush, Dichtel said.

“I don’t think it really changes anything, from what I knew before. It’s mostly what I’ve expected,” said Andrew J. Lynn ’01, house manager of Fenway House. However, Lynn thought that an IAP rush was “a bad idea in general,” and that it would negatively impact the IFC and FSILGs.

Lynn also thought that weather might deter people from visiting the house during IAP rush. “I know lots of people who hate to go across the bridge during the winter,” Lynn said. Additionally, Lynn agreed with the sentiment that houses would unofficially rush during fall term.

Regarding the suggestion that FSILGs might move to Cambridge to foster a more unified MIT community, Dichtel said that “if it means the difference between not being financially viable and having to shut down, or moving to Cambridge,” relocating would certainly be considered.

Many question proposals

Members of the MIT community who attended the meeting were the first outside the committee to see the report, and serious concerns were brought up throughout the presentation by committee chair William J. Hecht ’61. The majority of audience comments and questions criticized the report’s proposals, but Hecht thought that most concerns would be addressed with careful reading of the report.

Undergraduate Association Executive Committee Chair Jeremy D. Sher ’99 expressed concern over the changes to freshman resident life. Sher said that the reduced interaction with upperclassmen of a majority-freshmen dorm would hurt the first-year experience. “To me, that kind of social web and network is one of the things that makes MIT’s dorms great,” Sher said. Sher also thought that the “sophomore shuffle,” an encouraged move after the first year, would hurt MIT’s residential communities. “I hate the ‘sophomore shuffle’ idea,” Sher said.

When one student brought up the issue of house governments at Tuesday’s meeting, Hecht admitted that the committee had not had much discussion on the issue. Hecht also seemed unaware of the many different forms of house-specific and even floor-specific room selection.

Hecht said that he was delighted with the feedback from Tuesday’s meeting despite the high percentage of vehement opposition. He would have been upset if responses had been passive and turnout low, he said.