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A Brief Primer On Rush History

By Dana Levine


Although the members of the class of 2005 will be permitted to go through residence selection during their first week on campus, many of them may wonder whether this is a blessing at all. After all, freshmen have already filled out preliminary selection forms and received a temporary assignment which, while not always satisfying, at least provides all new students with a definite address.

So why should they be forced to move again, and why will next year’s incoming class not be required to do this? The answer can be traced back to August 26, 1998, the day that the class of 2002 arrived at MIT. In a letter to the MIT community, President Charles M. Vest announced that all freshmen would be required to live in institute dormitories as of Fall 2001.

Just three years later, there are few undergraduates who have first-hand knowledge of the events that lead to this decision, and many people do not understand how the current implementation came to be. This short primer on the history of MIT’s residence system and the causes for its redesign is intended to bring new students up to date.

System began with fraternities

MIT was initially housed in Boston’s Back Bay and relied on fraternities to provide housing for its students. Although there must have been some form of rush, the process was nothing like the current system.

However, after the Institute moved across the Charles River in 1917, work began on the first dormitories. Opened in 1924 and 1930, the East Campus Alumni Halls provided the first on-campus residential option. By the late sixties, most freshman males attended rush week, a program which allowed fraternities to recruit incoming students during the week before orientation. Although freshmen were required to fill out a dormitory preference form before coming to campus, dorms did not have a chance to recruit freshman during rush week.

In 1968, MIT students created an official rush week which included both fraternities and dormitories, and the following year, freshmen were allowed to change their dormitory selections after arriving on campus.

In 1970, temporary housing was randomized, a practice which would continue for nearly 30 years. The rush that we currently know had begun.

Krueger’s death spurs change

In September of 1997, Scott S. Krueger ’01 died of alcohol poisoning during an “animal house” event at his fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta. Although it has been claimed that members of Krueger’s pledge class were pressured to consume a large quantity of alcohol, members of Phi Gamma Delta have denied this allegation.

Phi Gamma Delta was indicted for Krueger’s death, but no one from the fraternity appeared at the arraignment. However, the Institute elected to penalize several members of the fraternity who were involved in Krueger’s death. Kevin E. McDonald ’00, Krueger’s “big brother” in the fraternity, was asked to leave MIT for the remainder of the term, although he later returned to complete his degree. During the summer of 1999, Phi Gamma Delta Pledge Trainer Charles H. Yoo ’98 had his diploma revoked for a period of four years by MIT’s Committee on Discipline. The judicial process followed during Yoo’s trial has been likened to the Star Chamber of 17th century Britain.

Freshmen to live on campus

Shortly after Krueger’s death, President Vest announced that construction would begin on a new undergraduate dormitory. In November of 1997, the faculty rejected a proposal to house freshmen on campus in 1998. However, less than a year passed before Vest decreed that freshman would live on campus in 2001. The groundwork had been laid for a massive overhaul of the MIT’s residence system.

The next article in this series will describe the history of MIT’s residence redesign process, which began shortly after Krueger’s death.