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Residence System in Midst of Changes

1997 Death of Fiji Freshman Prompts Comprehensive Residence Redesign

By Naveen Sunkavally

Almost two years after the drinking death of freshman Scott S. Krueger ’01, the Institute is still undergoing a massive transformation in its residence system that will define MIT culturally for years to come.

Announcements by President Charles M. Vest in October 1997 and August 1998 have shaped and set the tone for the housing debate thus far.

In October 1997, a few days after Krueger’s death, President Charles M. Vest announced the construction of a new undergraduate dormitory. A deadline was set for the year 2001, and the location chosen was North Vassar Street across from Next House. While Vest said that the administration had been considering increasing undergraduate dormitory housing for a while prior to the announcement, he also acknowledged that Krueger’s death accelerated his announcement.

In December of 1998, a selection committee chose renowned architect Steven Holl to design the dorm, and since then the design process has focused on creating a strong dorm community and integrating the dorm with other living groups on campus.

Vest mandates all freshmen on campus in 2001

In August 1998, in the early stages of a new Orientation meant to make rush less hectic, Vest announced that all freshmen would be housed on campus in the year 2001.

The idea to house all freshmen on campus was visited and rejected initially in the fall of 1997 when Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Stephen L. Chorover proposed it at a faculty meeting. But after heated discussion and a strong grass-roots movement by students living in fraternities and especially independent living groups, Chorover pulled the motion for a weaker one at a subsequent faculty meeting. Around the same time of Chorover’s motion, ideas of randomized freshman housing were also visited and rejected.

Vest timed the decision of the announcement to coincide with the release of a report by the Task Force on Student Life and Learning, a broad overarching document which supported on-campus freshman housing and addressed other ways to increase community on campus.

Immediately following Vest’s decision, students staged protests, including a “tool-in,” and an orange-campaign to save MIT’s residence system. Several MIT alumni wrote letters to Vest and to The Tech promising their lack of future donations. But now, a year later, the decision is seen as a virtual inevitability, and student efforts have shifted from protest to making the best of the worst.

Initial ideas for residence formed

During the Independent Activities Period of 1999, a residence design contest, announced the fall before by Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72, was held. Two design teams won, and their ideas included moving rush to the second semester, creating a strong advising system, and adding theme-based housing to the residence system.

Towards the end of the spring of 1999, a Residence System Steering Committee consisting of both students and administrators put forth a more concrete proposal for the residence system. One of the more controversial aspects of the proposal called for making Ashdown House, currently a graduate dorm, into a “Freshman Hall,” and turning MacGregor House, an undergraduate dorm, into a graduate dorm.

According to the proposal, incoming freshmen would choose their first-year residence through a summer mailing, and a Correction Lottery to be held their first week on-campus would give any dissatisfied students the option of moving. Rush would be moved to IAP, and a somewhat ambiguous “sophomore shuffle” would encourages freshmen at the end of their first year to enter a housing lottery or face the possibility of entering the same room assignment pool as incoming freshmen in their dorm.

Currently, the RSSC proposal is only preliminary, and recently, in order to accommodate more student input, the deadline for the final report has been extended to October 1, 1999.