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MIT Proposes Live-in Staff for Dormitories

By Eun Lee

ASSOCIATE FEATURES EDITOR

Administrators may soon reside in some of MIT’s dormitories to assist and advise students .

Under a working plan released by the Office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs, the new Residential Coordinators are currently slated to be housed in Senior House, Burton-Conner, and Next House.

The yet-to-be-hired Coordinators, which could be in place by the fall of 2001, would provide administrative assistance to housemasters and advise Graduate Resident Tutors and house governments.

“The program was designed very much in cooperation with deans and housemasters,” said Assistant Dean for RLSLP Katherine G. O’Dair.

The coordinators will serve on a rotating basis as Deans on Call to address after-hours and weekend emergency situations as well as student concerns. The current Deans on Call live in various places around greater Boston, with the exception of Dean Robert M. Randolph, the Bexley Hall housemaster.

“It can take up to an hour for the current Deans on Call to get to MIT in the middle of the night,” Dormitory Council President Jeffrey C. Roberts ’02 said.

Student leaders and the different residence halls scheduled to house the coordinators have had different reactions to the plan, which could involve remodeling and the elimination of some student rooms.

“I think it’s very clear that Senior House does not want this,” Andrew G. Brooks G, a Senior House GRT, said following a house meeting late Monday.

“Overall, the position has potential to do a lot of good,” Vice President of the Dormitory Council Matthew S. Cain ’02 said. “Housemasters have been asking for increased administrative support for years.”

“It seems that in a lot of these decisions, students are always playing catch-up,” he said.

Brooks mentioned other administration plans that, when finally released, caused student objection, such as placing temporary faculty offices on McDermott Court. At the Senior House meeting, residents were shown an architect’s plan for $36,000 worth of renovations, which would add a new coordinator apartment where two student rooms are currently situated, according to Brooks.

Other duties and responsibilities of the Residential Coordinators include advising house judicial committees, assisting in the Graduate Resident Tutor program, and being knowledgeable sources of information about MIT resources.

Live-in staffers spark controversy

Because this is a working plan that has not been formally presented to the student body, many details are yet to be decided or released.

As word of the proposal spread quickly over the mit-talk mailing list and around campus, some students were confused and concerned.

“As far as I can see, students have had no real input on the whole issue. No one has made any effort to include me or any of the other BC officers in these plans,” said Burton-Conner President Kiwah K. Kendrick ’02.

O’Dair said that students will have a role in the process, adding that there are several meetings scheduled later this week to address concerns about this issue. “This is something new to MIT. We need to spend time with students and housemasters and continually evaluate it,” said O’Dair.

O’Dair, Randolph, and the Senior House residents have already planned a meeting, according to Brooks.

The proposed renovations necessary to accommodate the on-campus residences of the coordinators would take the space of several currently existing student rooms.

“Eliminating beds for students on an overcrowded campus is not the best idea right now,” Kendrick said. The offices of the Residential Coordinators will all be located in Burton-Conner under the plan.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having another level of support, but I don’t think we should have administrative offices in dormitories,” said Kendrick.

“We know students are upset about this, and we want to talk to them directly,” O’Dair said.

Staffers’ fit in dorms questioned

Another topic of student concern is the appropriateness of administrators living in dormitories.

“Regardless of the job that the Residential Coordinator performs, animosity will still remain from students who see the administrator as a ‘policeman,’ whether they are or not,” Brooks said.

“There needs to be language in the policy ensuring that the role of the Residential Coordinator does not go beyond the support concept,” said Roberts.

O’Dair said that the coordinators will be there to assist students, not to police them. “These coordinators are not administrative watchdogs,” she said. “We expect the Residential Coordinators to provide more support for those who need it - not push themselves on students.”

“From my experience, I can tell you honestly that the Dean’s office doesn’t want to be in the business of policing dorms,” Roberts said.

The idea of the Residential Coordinators began last September during conversations with the Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict and housemasters about the best way to provide support for the residential system, said O’Dair.

In December, the plan was put into action when RLSLP acquired additional funding for student life. The working draft of the coordinator job position was shared with the members of Dormcon in December.