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Extend the Deadline

If the Residence System Steering Committee’s proposal to redesign the Institute’s dormitory system were only preliminary, as the report cautions, then MIT’s student community wouldn’t have much to fear. Students could go home for the summer, return in the fall, and then debate vigorously the merits and flaws of the plan.

Unfortunately, students will not have such an opportunity to debate the proposal. Final recommendations for dorm design are due in early fall, and, given that most students are absent for the summer session, the RSSC proposal takes the form more of a template for future action rather than a preliminary brainstorming. The Tech feels that more time is necessary for students and administrators to adequately think out the consequences of the Steering Committee’s recommendations and to propose better alternatives. While the current extension is commendable, more time will be necessary to foster a comprehensive dialog over what has been a perplexing report..

One of the report’s more controversial recommendations, to move the graduate residents of Ashdown House to MacGregor House, relocating MacGregor residents and allowing for Ashdown to become a central, undergraduate, “freshman dorm,” is random at best. Why MacGregor and Ashdown? We can only speculate. Perhaps the Steering Committee felt that MacGregor, with its red brick, imposing tower, and single rooms, was somehow more appropriate for graduate students. Or perhaps the committee wanted, in an attempt to further more community interaction, to prevent undergrads from having singles their first year on campus.

Whatever the reasons (which need to be articulated), it is little more than conjecture that has propelled the Steering Committee to issue its blanket recommendation. Strong student opposition exists and cannot be ignored. For instance, residents at MacGregor would protest being essentially thrown out from their home and community, and some undergraduates entering MIT might desire the privacy of a single more than the community a double or triple provides. More facts must be gathered on either side before justifying such a drastic upheaval.

The report’s idea of a “sophomore shuffle,” transparently a way to give fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups more of an opportunity to gain pledges, deserves more debate and clarification. According to the report, the shuffle, to take place in spring every year, is a process whereby freshman-to-be-sophomores enter a lottery to be reassigned to a new dorm; those not wanting to leave their current dorm can stay in the same dorm but would receive the same rooming priority as freshmen coming into that dorm the next fall.

The Tech has heard different variations of the sophomore shuffle from members of the committee, and at this point we are uncertain of what the sophomore shuffle really is. Aside from the fact that the shuffle completely ignores individual dorm policies across campus for rooming, there is the potential that undergraduates will see their freshman residences as temporary. Such a drastic disruption in undergraduate life deserves more debate and factual and statistical evidence on either side.

Also, alarmingly enough, the report completely ignores the role of the new undergraduate residence to be built by the year 2001. Any plan to redesign the dormitory system must take into account this new dorm. How can it, the product of all the controversy at MIT for the last two years, be ignored? What is the role this new dorm will play and what will be the makeup of the residents of this new dorm? If anything, perhaps the new dorm should be the “freshman dorm” because that way there will be no necessarily disruption to existing residential life.

The bottom line is that more time and research are necessary to adequately debate and think out solutions to redesign residential life at MIT. On one hand, the RSSC report makes radical recommendations with little evidence that these recommendations will work. On the other hand, students, inherently one of the most conservative groups on campus, object to the recommendations more on gut feeling than on logic. Both students and administrators need to come together to shape the new dorm redesign. The Tech’s worst fear is that, come fall, the MIT administration will institute the recommendations with little input coming through from either side, and students will be the ones to suffer.