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Concerned Students Criticize RSSC Plan

By Rima Arnaout

Associate New Editor

As the community input phase of the Residence System Steering Committee’s redesign project progresses, students continue to voice criticism against the RSSC’s preliminary proposals.

Approximately thirty students gathered at Baker House Sunday in the second of four scheduled feedback meetings. Most students were from Ashdown House and MacGregor House -- the dormitories most affected by the proposed changes.

“I don’t understand what’s so wrong with our system that it needs such substantial change,” said Baker resident Marie L. Blanke ’01. “The administration is basically saying that ‘you undergrads like the system as it stands, but we know better,’” Blanke said.

The RSSC’s Phase II Status Report, “An Evolving Framework,” calls for the creation of a “Freshman Hall” to be located in Ashdown House and for MacGregor House to become a graduate dormitory. The committee also proposes a changed timeline for residence selection to include an Independent Activities Period rush. Students would choose their first-year residence through summer mailings with a Correction Lottery to follow for any dissatisfied students, according the plans. An additional housing lottery -- the “sophomore shuffle”-- would be held in spring of the freshman year.

At the open meeting, however, RSSC Chair William J. Hecht ’61 reiterated previous statements saying that the RSSC is “not, in any way, shape, or matter, done. This is not a final solution... until we get community feedback and go back into deliberations,” Hecht said.

Ashdown community threatened

Student criticism of the RSSC proposals unveiled last Tuesday focused largely on the plans to make Ashdown the Freshman Hall and MacGregor a graduate residence.

“For every reason Ashdown is a good place for freshmen, it’s a good place for grad students,” said Ashdown resident Shunmugavelu D. Sokka G. “And it’s the center of one half of the student community.”

“We chose Ashdown because it has big public spaces” and because of its central location, Hecht said. The RSSC recommended to move graduate students to MacGregor because the dorm provides singles to all its inhabitants.

However, Ashdown resident Manish Jethwa G noted that “If you’d approach most graduate students at Ashdown, you’d see that they are willing to sacrifice single rooms” for the social community Ashdown provides.

“Several of us in the Ashdown community and the graduate community are very concerned” about the lack of representation of graduate students in the steering committee, Sokka said.

Hecht said that “we looked hard for graduate student representation. We found none; [the Graduate Student Council] didn’t nominate anyone.” Hecht added that the RSSC is now considering adding graduate students to its group.

Another graduate student said that in moving graduate students from Ashdown, the RSSC is “taking the one thing that keeps the graduate community together and taking it apart” to propose something else. She also expressed concern that the freshmen moving into Ashdown would be isolated from the rest of their class.

MacGregor resident Jamie E. Devereaux ’02 said it was odd that the RSSC would want to tamper with the Ashdown community, considering that “Ashdown was cited in the Task Force report as having a great graduate community.”

MacGregor residents defend dorm

Much as graduate students explained the importance of Ashdown to RSSC members, MacGregor residents spoke up for their dorm.

One MacGregor resident said that MacGregor fills a specific niche in the undergraduate residence community.

“[MacGregor] as a whole has a lot of students of color and international students. MacGregor is a good community to deal with new people with new perspectives, and to find common ground,” he said.

Mitchell W. McVey G, a graduate resident tutor for MacGregor, said that if MacGregor is made unavailable to undergraduates, their opportunity to get single rooms would be greatly diminished.

Students also found the “sophomore shuffle” aspect of the proposal confusing and questioned the wisdom of making incoming freshmen choose their residence halls over the summer.

“Basically, what we’ve done is give you squatting rights in your temporary room,” said RSSC member Abigail H. Pelcyger ’01.

Other RSSC members present at the forum included Erin Hester ’82, Jennifer C. Berk ’01, and Elisha W. Hopson ’00.

Phase III of the Residence Design project will continue with more small group discussions to be held at various graduate residences, undergraduate dorms, and FSILGs.