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SAC Launches Rival Residence Proposal

Unified Proposal Counters RSSC Report

By Dana A. Levine

Staff Writer

The Strategic Advisory Committee to the Chancellor held a meeting yesterday afternoon to present their unified proposal about the future of residential life on campus to the MIT community.

Committee member Jake H. Parrott ’00 gave an overview of the SAC’s goals -- “our interests lie in the residence system and its implications in student’s lives.” Parrott emphasized that the SAC’s report is an extension of the report produced by the Residential System Steering Committee, which deals mainly with housing.

The meeting consisted of a formal presentation by several members of the SAC followed by a brief question and answer period. Ten members of the SAC were in attendance.

Members explain report contents

“We dealt with the issues that don’t set off sparks in feedback forums, such as budgets 10 years down the road,” Parrott said.

Parrot outlined the three major issues that the SAC report deals with, those of “house,” “home,” and “community.” These issues involve building a modern residence system with a sense of community.

“I’ve been better off not just taking classes, but by interacting with administrators, faculty, and alumni,” said Undergraduate Association President and SAC member Matthew McGann ’00.

McGann spoke largely about how the committee has gathered input from the community and compiled it into a report. “Talking to the community has really made this report happen,” McGann said. McGann advocated that the house masters receive a support staff, and that graduate resident tutors receive an actual budget with which to plan social and academic events. McGann also suggested that MIT try to bring alumni back to campus and to bring together people “across the MIT community.”

Financial concerns discussed

UA Vice President and SAC committee member Lex Nemzer ’00 discussed the financial aspect of the SAC proposal. Nemzer described the plan as “relatively preliminary, but a good estimation of what we’re going to need financially.”

The plan, which calls for $275 million above the current capital plan of $750 million, consists of three phases. These phases, to be completed by the summer of 2009, include renovations to most of the existing dormitories as well as Walker Memorial and the student center.

This plan proposes that all undergraduates be offered housing and that first year and 50 percent of all graduate students be provided with MIT housing.

“MIT can’t afford not to do this,” Nemzer said. “It’s critical to MIT’s residence objective and education mission.”

Nemzer advocated active fundraising from alumni, emphasizing that MIT really “needs their money.”

SAC chair John Hollywood G spoke mainly about the administrative aspects of the proposal, advocating effective management and governance of the residence system.

Hollywood mentioned an “ongoing conference to assign responsibility for the residence system to all stakeholders in the system.”

The SAC report proposes the formation of a committee called the Student Life Council, which would contain undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and possibly alumni. This committee would deal with student life issues on a daily basis.

One of the subcommittees of this group, called the Monitoring Committee, would review the performance of senior level administrators.

The committee would award a 10 to 15 percent salary bonus to those senior-level administrators who fulfilled their responsibilities. Other employees could also be recognized for their efforts.

“Unless people are accountable for the progress of the system, the system won’t work very well,” Hollywood said.

Hollywood stressed that the system needs to follow the guidelines for systems engineering and project management. “You can do both in just five minutes a day,” he said.

Frank talks about rush

Committee member and Dormitory Council President Jennifer A. Frank ’00 made the final speech, dealing with the residence system and rush. She emphasized that “MIT’s living options offer very strong support systems.”

Frank stated the committee’s goal is to make freshmen feel both academically and community oriented. She mentioned that steps should be taken to make sure that students don’t feel intimidated by the faculty.

The SAC’s proposal suggests a preliminary summer lottery, followed by a later lottery after students arrive on campus. Freshmen would have the option of either staying in their original dormitory or moving to a different residence.

Each spring and fall, a new lottery would be run, allowing students to either stay in their current residence, pledge an independent living group, or enter the dorm lottery. Frank stated that a housing guarantee for all undergraduates would be beneficial, as crowded housing is preferable to no housing.

In addition, the plan provides stipulations for MIT to aid fraternities with financial support and graduate students to fill empty beds. “The housing system hasn’t changed to support changing genders,” Frank said. Under the SAC plan, MIT would provide houses for the two sororities which don’t currently have houses and any new living groups which may form.

During the question and answer period, SAC member Liana F. Lareau ’00 mentioned that MIT’s peer institutions Dartmouth and Cornell have recently undergone $200 million dollar residence system renovations. In order for MIT to remain competitive, massive overhauls and financial investments would have to be made.

“If MIT implements this system, then we will have a high quality residence system,” said Committee member Jeremy D. Sher ’99. “The only justification for having a residential university in the 21st century is a residential system.”