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A Commendable Report

Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72 deserves commendation for his report on the residence system. His decisions show careful thought and analysis and incorporate student concerns. The report provides the best possible alternative residence system for MIT given the constraints set forth by the unpopular decision to house all freshmen on campus in 2001.

Bacow provides solid explanations for his decisions and clearly listened to student leaders. The report frequently cites the student-dominated Strategic Advisory Council’s recommendations on the housing system.

While many changes have obviously been made to the MIT housing system, Bacow strives to keep many of the positive attributes of the MIT housing system intact. The freedom to choose one’s residence hall assignment during orientation and the guarantee of four years of undergraduate housing are important features of the present system included in the new recommendations. The elimination of the dangerous “sophomore shuffle” is another positive attribute of Bacow’s report.

Bacow’s recommendations, however, do give some reasons for concern. Although the report is meant to be a final decision on the residence system, it fails to present more than guidelines or principles on many specific issues. For example, a better explanation of how dormitory demand will be managed if not enough students pledge, or a strong, formalized capital proposal to fund these changes, are needed. The generous reimbursement policies for graduate students living in FSILGs are another concern -- MIT must insure these new benefits do not lead to abuse.

The administration must also make sure that rush, which will occur in the middle of the fall semester, does not detract from academics. An IAP rush should be re-considered -- it offers available free time and is well positioned in the academic calendar.

The failure of the report to offer concrete plans for a graduate residence, despite calling such a residence one of MIT’s most pressing concerns, is also troubling.

Many of these concerns can be addressed through the implementation process. The Dean’s Office must provide impartial and knowledgeable leadership in the implementation of these programs.

Students, also, must remain involved in the process through implementation. While this report represents a final decision, the time for student input is not at an end.

Chancellor Bacow’s report, based largely on student recommendations and feedback, promises positive changes for the MIT student body. Those charged with its implementation must not squander this tremendously valuable opportunity to improve the MIT housing system.