The True Reasons for Housing Protest
Dan McGuire’s column of November 12, “The Housing Protest Schism,” makes a number of claims about MITchoice, the recent sit-in, the student body as a whole and MIT’s community which must be addressed.
McGuire characterizes the MITchoice sit-in as a response to the Boston Globe’s fraternity editorial; however, the sit-in had been planned (and, in fact, advertised all over campus) for quite some time before the Globe editorial appeared. Moreover, given that ILTFP’s “chuck Vest” t-shirt campaign and MITchoice’s publicity activities have been ongoing for most of the term, McGuire’s keen eye for student activism appears to have been quite selective.
Contrary to what McGuire claims, more than “a couple of administrators” were present at the sit-in. Paul Gray was there for most of the sit-in, and a number of other admins were present as well. In fact, many of the administrators who attended the sit-in stand behind the freshmen on campus (FOC) decision. Since there has not been a suitable forum for students to state their opinions of this decision, it is clear that the sit-in was a necessary step.
McGuire goes on to state that the student body is largely behind Vest’s decision to house freshmen on campus; to use his own phrase, this claim is patently false. McGuire’s mistake is in taking the student body’s general lack of activism to mean that it’s behind the administration’s decision. If MITchoice’s rapidly growing membership is any indication, however, the student body is anything but supportive of Vest’s decree. Student government’s unwillingness and inability to react effectively to the freshmen on campus decision speaks poorly of decision-making by committee but says nothing about the feeling of the student body.
It is not surprising that McGuire ignores the fact that, in the 1998 UA referendum, 87 percent of those voting voiced their opposition to the FOC decision; after all, the administration ignored it as well. By failing to recognize that the student body has spoken out repeatedly against this decision, McGuire’s column reflects the wider failure to heed student voice on the part of the administration.
According to the column, the faculty is “cheering the decision”; this is simply not true. It is unclear what the faculty thinks about the matter, with members speaking passionately on both sides of the issue. Members of the faculty have put forth resolutions which failed to pass; in other words, the issue of faculty opinion is not as cut-and-dried as McGuire seems to think.
McGuire talks about the priorities of students “concerned by the parade of bad press” about MIT in recent times; we hold that anyone supporting Vest’s mandate out of concern for their public image does not have valid priorities. Community and the quality of student life are what matter.
As for “multiple sets of people working from the same set of information” reaching different conclusions about the FOC issue, it is unfortunate that the Task Force for Student Life and Learning, the Residence System Steering Committee, and the Strategic Advisory Committee all accepted Vest’s decision to house freshmen on campus as a constraint, rather than keeping the debate truly open. However, given that members of all three groups have been outspoken in opposition to this decree, it appears that many people seem to be independently reaching the same conclusion that we have, namely, that housing freshmen on campus is a huge blow to the communities that thrive within MIT, and the wider MIT community as a whole.
Finally, despite McGuire’s claims to the contrary, the sit-in was not held to attract media attention. We staged the event to send a clear message to the administration and the student body that we have not forgotten that this decision was made, and that we will not sit idly by and watch community be destroyed at MIT.
These errors could have been avoided had McGuire contacted us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or looked at our website,
Wally Holland ’01