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Clay Picks Crowding Solutions

By Jeffrey Greenbaum


The undergraduate crowding problem will be addressed by housing a mix of rising seniors and sorority members in graduate dorms next year, following new developments in the plan first outlined by Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 in January. Freshmen will not be housed in graduate dormitories.

Nonresidential sorority members and current juniors who plan to complete their Masters degree through a five-year program will be invited to fill a maximum of 140 spots in graduate dorms.

“I think that it is a win-win situation,” Clay said. “It does not disrupt the graduate community life, and the women get to live on campus together.”

The compromise comes after heated protest from the graduate student community to a plan announced in January that would house freshmen in Ashdown to help alleviate overcrowding next year.

“I think that this two-pronged approach will help ensure that there will be enough undergraduates interested in moving to graduate dormitories,” said Jennifer M. Farver G, Ashdown House president and co-chair of the Graduate Student Council (GSC) Housing and Community Activities Committee.

Sororities to colonize grad dorms

Sisters from nonresidential sororities Kappa Alpha Theta and Alpha Epsilon Phi will each be offered a contiguous section of a graduate dormitory, complete with lounges and kitchens. Due to the different rules, sizes, and arrangements of the graduate dormitories, KAT and AEPhi will be allowed to choose between Ashdown and the new Sidney and Pacific graduate dormitory.

However, AEPhi President Karen H. Riensenburger ’03 said that Sidney and Pacific would not be the first choice for AEPhi. “People think that Sidney and Pacific would be an unsafe area [for undergraduates to live],” she said. KAT and AEPhi plan to meet with administrators to determine the number of sisters that each sorority would have to house in either dormitory as well as other details of the proposal.

Sheila Viswanathan ’04, KAT president, said she wants to know exactly which sections of the dormitory and what facilities will be allocated to her and her sisters. She said that KAT sisters were “open to the idea” of living in a graduate dorm, but that they had not learned any details of the proposal yet.

The success of the proposal is highly dependent on the willingness of sorority members to move out of their current residence halls. “Some sorority sisters might be reluctant to leave their dormitory community and live only with their sisters,” said Matthew S. Cain ’02, Dormitory Council president.

Riensenburger said that AEPhi would not force any sisters into graduate housing.

‘Senior Segue’ plan chosen

To fill the remainder of the 140 needed spaces, the plan known as the “Senior Segue” will be implemented. Current juniors who plan to complete a Masters degree through a five-year program will also be offered graduate housing for their final two years at MIT.

“We would invite juniors who currently live on campus interested in any graduate program [to live in graduate housing],” Clay said.

These students will automatically receive graduate housing for their final undergraduate year and their first graduate year. Participating students will be allowed to choose from any graduate dormitory.

“[The seniors] would cause less of a disruption to the graduate school community because I imagine that the seniors will look more into integrating into the graduate community,” Farver said.

Clay said that there have been suggestions to expand the number of masters programs that would allow undergraduates to participate in this option.

“We would like to open it up to any [junior] who will be completing graduate studies at MIT,” Farver said. “We also want to allow for stapling to make it [more] attractive to seniors who want to be with their friends.”

Plan sparks student life concerns

Although this plan may provide relief to the crowding situation, the implications of this proposal may greatly change student life for both undergraduates and graduate students living on campus.

Cain said that DormCom is concerned about losing a portion of senior class to this plan because of the decreasing ratio of seniors to freshmen in the dormitories.

“The way the system works now, there is a lot of informal mentoring. The seniors are the ones who have been here the longest and can offer perspective,” Cain said.

Graduate students are still concerned about the future of this plan because they do not want the number of undergraduates in the graduate housing system to increase over time.

There are still several key issues to address if this plan is going to be implemented, such as the significant cost difference between graduate and undergraduate housing. “I think that we will still charge undergraduates the same rent while they are undergraduates,” Clay said.

However, Farver said, “We want to make sure that the graduate housing system receives [financial] compensation for [this] difference.” Maintenance and construction of the graduate housing system are funded solely from graduate student rents. “If the rents that are flowing into the graduate housing system decrease, we lose twice,” Farver said.