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Scrapping the 2001 Policy

Over the past two and a half years, The Tech has repeatedly endorsed proposals to house all first year students on campus. We continue to believe that housing freshmen on campus “will integrate freshmen into the larger MIT community and provide students with more time to make informed choices about where they want to live” [“Paving the Way for Radical Change,” Oct. 17, 1997].

However, The Tech no longer supports President Vest’s decision to begin housing all freshmen on campus beginning in the fall of 2001. The administration’s incompetence in planning the new undergraduate residence has convinced The Tech that the Institute should not proceed with the implementation of the 2001 decision.

In order to house all freshmen on campus, the proposed new undergraduate residence needed to open by the time the Class of 2005 arrived. Without the new residence, the creaking campus housing system, already filled past capacity, could never accommodate another 300-odd students -- freshmen who otherwise would have lived in FSILGs.

Ground was supposed to have been broken on the new dorm last month, paving the way for eighteen months of frenzied construction. This was an ill-planned strategy to start, with little margin for error and no contingency plans. Now, construction has been indefinitely delayed by a development protest -- a possibility the administration initially acknowledged but obviously failed to take seriously.

With the new dorm almost certainly stalled in court proceedings, freshmen on campus implementation cannot be accomplished without one or more of several draconian administrative actions. Tang Hall or Ashdown House could be cleared of graduate students to make room for freshmen -- but such continued abuse of grad students would be completely unacceptable. An epic move of freshmen into the Marriott or Hyatt hotels (À la Boston University) would require exorbitant spending for temporary housing. Houseboats on the Charles, or an Adopt-a-Student program, are politically unlikely.

Some might suggest creating a 2002 deadline in lieu of 2001 -- giving the administration an extra year to build the new dorm. However, The Tech believes that MIT has demonstrated its inability to act responsibly within time constraints. A deadline for housing all freshmen on campus should only be considered when -- and if -- the administration produces coherent, realistic construction plans for the new residence.

Thus, The Tech recommends a new policy: gradually increasing the percentage of freshmen on campus until all freshmen live in dorms. The original goal of the 2001 decision will thus be realized without the cut corners that would result from an arbitrary deadline. In order to avoid even further overburdening the existing dormitories, the Institute will need to decrease the size of incoming classes (as it hopes to do with the Class of 2005). Cramming freshmen into lounges and common spaces is not an acceptable long-term solution.

The Tech acknowledges that the administration will be loath to reverse the 2001 decision, but the future of MIT housing must be placed ahead of rushing to enact change.