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Initial Reaction Positive

Bacow Proposal Well Received by Leaders

By Frank Dabek

Despite the controversy which has surrounded each step of the residence design process, the report on the final design of the residence system has initially been well received by the majority of the student body.

The compromise design suggested by Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72 in his report has won widespread approval, and student leaders were pleased by his use of student input in the report.

Undergraduate Association President Matthew L. McGann ’00 stressed the integration of student views, including the Unified Proposal produced by the student-based Strategic Advisory Council to the Chancellor. “I’m very pleased that [the Chancellor] involved student input” in the process, he said. Bacow’s report referenced the SAC proposal several times and “pretty much rubber-stamped the IFC’s rush proposal.”

McGann and other leaders and activists noted, however, that this proposal does not mark the end of student input into the future of the residence system. “He (Chancellor Bacow) has left a lot of room in implementation,” he said. The planning process is “nowhere near to where we will have to be in 20 months,” he said.

Associate Dean Kirk D. Kolenbrander, who will be in charge of the implementation of Bacow’s report, said, “There is a great deal of work to do ... We will go with small, measured steps at first.”

Groups which have been protesting President Charles M. Vest’s decision to require all freshmen to live on campus by 2001 view the implementation process as an opportunity to continue the battle against residence system change.

Niko D. Matsakis ’01, a member of the activist group MIT Choice, said that the organization continues to be opposed to the 2001 decision.

Matsakis said that the report did not represent a comprehensive decision and that Bacow “underestimates the value of our communities as they exist now to MIT life.” The presence of these communities “is crucial to the MIT we know and love,” he said.

While Bacow said that he welcomes discussion he added that “we need closure at this point.”

Kolenbrander said he was prepared to include students in the process -- implementation will “involve students every step of the way,” he said.

Governments in favor of plan

Among the major undergraduate student governments, however, the report received a warmer reception.

William R. Dichtel ’00, a member of the Interfraternity Council’s 2001 transition committee, said that Bacow’s proposed “rush structure is definitely workable for the IFC.” Academic stress is a concern with the planned October rush, Dichtel said. While the mid-term rush may become “more pressured than during Orientation,” the timing is still superior to IAP, he said. The “IFC was very much against an IAP rush.” October rush is “a big victory for the IFC,” he said.

Dichtel was less enthusiastic about the report’s plans for financial assistance to fraternities, sororities and independent living groups and its recommendation that FSILGs consider becoming co-educational. “I felt the SAC model was obviously more generous. This funding model is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Bacow encouraged the change to co-educational fraternities to allow MIT’s housing system to better reflect the changing demographics of its student body. Nationals may oppose the switch to co-ed, however, Dichtel said. “System-wide I think there are going to be many fraternities that wish to stay all male or all female, but there will be exceptions to that” as well, he said.

Dormitory Council President Jennifer A. Frank ’00 was also satisfied with the plan. “I think we reached a compromise between summer selection and the current rush system.”

Theme houses, however, have protested the move away from a selective rush process since the idea was initially proposed as part of the RSSC report. The groups fear that a lack of selectivity will destroy their unique cultures. Raymond Morales, a resident of Chocolate City said that the report, “calls for a restructuring of Chocolate City in a way we are not prepared to make.” “Our community has to die,” as a result of the decision Morales said.

According to Bacow, “theme houses believe quite passionately that their future was dependent on the ability [of students] to select” future housemasters. The report was saying “the system can operate in a different way.”

Frank said, however, that the changes to rush will have “no profound effect on the culture of dorms.”

Bacow was able to win the support of these leaders mainly by integrating their recommendations into his report. Frank served on the SAC, which recommended the system of term lotteries proposed by the Chancellor’s report. Bacow’s report essentially adopted the proposal of IFC transition committee, of which Dichtel was a member.

Captial outlays draw criticism

The strongest criticism of the report has come in the area of capital outlays for the residence system. While the SAC report outlined nearly $250 million in capital spending over the next ten years, Bacow’s report makes reference to the $100 million proposed for student life and learning by the capital campaign but offers little additional spending.

The report doesn’t offer “a plan to outline the capital needs of the system,” McGann said.

Bacow’s plan would offer a “dramatic increase” in the funding available to housemasters by $50,000 to $70,000, he said.

Liana F. Lareau ’00, a member of the SAC, said that the report needs “to make [capital spending] more of a priority.”

Graduate student leaders were unenthusiastic about the report. The lack of support for a graduate residence is “not a retrenchment ... this is a lack of progress,” according to Graduate Student Council President Luis A. Ortiz G.

While the report states that graduate housing is “our greatest immediate capital need,” it fails to propose funding for the oft-delayed Sydney street dormitory.

Ortiz said that the plan to reimburse graduate students living at FSILGs is “basically a way to house M. Eng students.” “I don’t see it as a great boon for graduate students.”

Dichtel agreed that the program is somewhat targeted at fifth year students. “[The Chancellor] is very open about the fact that M. Eng students” could get the subsidy, he said.

Zareena J. Hussain contributed to the reporting of this article.