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German House OKs RBA System for Fall

Other Cultural Houses and Baker Decide Against Participating in Advising Program

By Jennifer Young


The residence-based advising program will expand even more this fall when German House joins the system.

The RBA program was offered in March to Chocolate City, French House, German House, Russian House, Spanish House, Baker House, and Next House. German House is the only culture group to have officially accepted the program at this point.

German House President Teresa S. Baker ’03 said that her house accepted the offer because “it seemed like a good opportunity to build on the house community that is already a part of German House and a neat way to get the faculty involved with the house.”

The upcoming changes to rush provided another incentive to implement RBA. “We thought it would give us a springboard for working out the changes we’ll be making for rush. We’re trying a new way of choosing housing, which will help give a model for further housing decisions or show a need for a new approach,” Baker said.

The RBA program will give German House a faculty adviser and a house-designed advising program. The house will withdraw from rush 2001, and will instead choose their freshman residents next year by reviewing applications from incoming freshmen.

Changes to the actual advising process provide the greatest source of concern within German House, and several options for these are being explored. The house is allowed to choose between a seminar and a traditional advising program, and may design their chosen program .

“Attaching a seminar to our house means we have to choose a topic that is interesting to a broad number of students. We want to keep the diversity and broadness of German House,” Baker said. Current seminar possibilities are the German language, history, or culture, particularly emphasizing the German influence in and around Boston.

Groups want to keep control

In March, Baker House and all the cultural groups residing in New House were offered a chance to look into RBA for next year, but only German House confirmed their acceptance of the program. Many houses rejected the proposal because it would affect their rush procedure for next year.

Baker House rejected the proposal because they felt that the proposed system would give the administration too much control over the housing process. “We feel that to do it satisfyingly would be a lot of work for Baker residents, because we’d want full control of the program in the students’ hands. We are interested in improving advising, especially within Baker, but this does not seem like the way to do it,” said Baker President Michael H. Roberts ’02.

Students living in Baker also worried that RBA would have a negative impact on next year’s rush. “The program was presented as a good way to prepare for 2002, but we feel it’s better if Baker faces the coming changes in rush with the other dorms,” Roberts said.

“We unanimously and emphatically voted [the program] down,” said Dawn M. Ash ’02, the president of Russian House. “Regular advising groups are activity-based, they bring together students with common interests ... a residence-based group might mean depriving freshmen of the chance to be in a fun seminar.”

Russian House was concerned about the loss of rush privileges which accompanies RBA. “We were very upset about the possibility of losing rush. The administration is killing a fun tradition, and we don’t want to give it up any sooner than we have to. The house wants to enjoy the last rush,” said Ash.

Chocolate City also chose not to implement the pilot program next year, and stated similar concerns about relinquishing rush rights. “We generally felt that the RBA program would upset the current flow of incoming members. We don’t want to risk losing the methods of rushing incoming freshmen earlier than we have to, even though the program was interesting and had a lot of positive points ... we may revisit it next year,” said Napoleon J. Nelson ’02, the junior co-chair of Chocolate City.

French House did not accept the program. “The program has a lot of strengths, and we thought it was well set-up, but one of the things we value a lot is diversity, and if all the members chose their living arrangements based on the seminar, our diversity could be limited,” said French House Vice-President Mary E. Ross ’03.

The preliminary status of the RBA program will allow participants to have a significant amount of leeway. “The administration has been very flexible and willing to help us find an option that works. They’ve been very receptive to student input,” said Ross.

Spanish House has not decided whether to adopt the program, but they may do so if the freshmen will be permitted to participate in several different seminars. “We didn’t like the idea of having all the freshmen in the same seminar group. As of right now, we’re not sure, but we may choose it if they are flexible about the freshman choice of seminar,” said Jeannette Garza ’03, the co-president of Spanish House.

CHO fears early implementation

The UA’s Committee on Housing and Orientation has raised concerns about expanding RBA before a complete survey of the program’s first year has been released. “Before they had more people sign on, they should have made it more public,” said CHO Chair Grace A. Kessenich ’03.

An expansion of the RBA program was proposed before the program could be completely evaluated because of a need to finalize the freshman advising seminars that will be offered next year. At the February housemasters’ meeting, all houses were offered the opportunity to explore RBA. Baker, Next, and the culture groups were the only houses that showed interest at the meeting. These houses were required to either accept or reject RBA by the week before spring break.

Another reason for the incomplete evaluation is that it has been difficult to survey the results of McCormick’s RBA. Rather than conducting a broad survey, McCormick has attempted to explore the opinions of its residents in small focus groups.

No comprehensive data exist for comparison with this year’s survey because past surveys of McCormick students consisted of general questionnaires about the freshman experience, and did not specifically probe the effects of advising. A similar survey was administered to students this year, and it will provide less targeted information on the results of RBA.

The Institute will release results from the first year of RBA on Wednesday, April 18 at an open forum organized by CHO and the Undergraduate Association’s Student Committee on Educational Policy (SCEP). Program Administrator for Residential Programs Ricky A. Gresh, Kessenich, and SCEP Chair Victoria K. Anderson ’02 will be among the students and administrators present to discuss the results and answer any questions that students may have.