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RSSC Proposes Extended Rush, Scraps Mainly Freshmen Hall

By Kevin R. Lang

and Gabriel Daleson
STAFF REPORTERS

The final report of the Residence System Steering Committee calls for freshmen to select their dormitory before arriving on campus and for the relocation of rush to an extended period during the freshmen year.

Plans for dormitory selection have changed considerably since the initial RSSC report. In the original proposal, incoming freshmen would select their first-year residence over the summer, with a correction lottery early in the fall term.

The final plan, however, does not include provisions for a correction lottery. Instead, freshmen would choose their dormitory by mail and would know their assignment by July 1.

A more traditional housing lottery would occur before March 31 of the freshman year, replacing the “sophomore shuffle” originally suggested.

The committee also changed the process of FSILG selection considerably. The final report suggests a rush beginning November 1 of the freshman year and continuing into the spring. Students must have either pledged an FSILG or lotteried into a dormitory by March 31. Students would move into FSILGs for the start of their sophomore year, as originally proposed.

Committee Chair William J. Hecht ’61 said that the committee thought moving and extending rush would allow for a more thoughtful, informed decision about residence selection.

Attendees at a discussion forum held Wednesday, including students, faculty, and even committee members themselves, expressed concern with the report’s admission that second-year students could be forced out of the housing system if the FSILG system does not attract enough residents.

The report states that the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education will determine the acceptable crowding level before running the lottery, the report said. Some sophomores, as a result, may receive no dormitory and would be required to find other housing.

“There is a real possibility that upperclass students will be forced to find an apartment against their wishes,” said Undergraduate Association President Matthew L. McGann ’00.

The last RSSC report was released in April and was received negatively by most of the student population. The group began discussions following a design project held during last year’s IAP.

RSSC rescinds Ashdown proposal

The RSSC no longer recommends that Ashdown House be made a primarily freshman hall, nor do they recommend that MacGregor House be made a graduate dormitory.

In addition, the RSSC decided against the creation of a primarily freshman hall. The report states that, “in both cases, we received compelling feedback to convince us that those Phase II recommendations were unwise.”

Ashdown residents voiced strong opposition and presented an alternative proposal to the MacGregor-Ashdown switch, while more than 75 percent of MacGregor residents petitioned against the RSSC proposal.

Professor Anne E. McCants, Green Hall Housemaster and RSSC member, said that a number of housemasters she spoke with thought housing a large number of freshman together would be counterproductive.

However, the majority of the committee’s recommendations remain unchanged from the original proposal, first presented in April.

Students have mixed reactions

“The final report is, in a sense, a mixed bag,” McGann said. McGann applauded the committee’s decision to leave Ashdown and MacGregor houses intact, but was concerned with the changes to residence selection.

Throughout Hecht’s presentation, students expressed anger with the RSSC’s plans for on-campus residence selection. However, only a handful raised questions about the changes to FSILG rush.

The Interfraternity Council’s President’s Council was meeting during the majority of Wednesday’s presentation.

Several students shared their own experiences with residence selection and how the RSSC proposal would have affected them. Jennifer M. Braun ’02 shared an emotional story of how dormitory rush changed her thoughts on living groups, and how friends at Baker House helped her through a difficult time that nearly caused her to transfer to another school.

Some argued the RSSC attempts to solve problems created by the decision to house freshmen on campus in 2001, and that reversing the decision would be simpler than completely changing MIT’s residence system.

However, Professor and former President Paul E. Gray ’54 said that “it will not happen. Give it up.”

Ashdown Housemaster Vernon M. Ingram asked the committee why MIT doesn’t simply reduce the size of the freshman class in order to relieve pressure on the housing system. Hecht noted that, while the RSSC did not discuss this as an option, class size was reduced in the 1980s.

Committee member and Associate Dean Andrew M. Eisenmann ’70 noted that reducing class size has serious budget implications, as do many of the proposed changes.

“There should be no question that the proposed solutions we’re suggesting come with a price tag,” Hecht said.

Report not yet officially finalized

Hecht noted that the report is not necessarily finalized, with four community feedback meetings scheduled before the report is sent to Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72 on Oct. 1. “We may or may not amend the report; that’s our decision,” Hecht said.

The committee will meet with interested students on Sept. 14 in Burton-Connor, on Sept. 15 in East Campus’ Talbot Lounge, at Delta Tau Delta on Sept. 22, and in Ashdown House on Sept. 24.

The RSSC’s final report can be found at <http://web.mit.edu/residence/systemdesign/>.