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Fraternities? Or Sleeping Bags Down the Infinite?

Guest Column
Arun Agarwal

This year, MIT cut its freshman class from about 1,050 to about 980 to accommodate its new policy that all freshman live on campus. Under the policy, all entering students, starting with the class of 2006, will no longer have the option to move into they fraternities they rushed at until their sophomore year. In addition, MIT moved rush back several weeks, which gives students the opportunity to now explore dormitory life before deciding whether or not to move into a fraternity or independent living group.

This could turn out to be a problem: as more students became settled into their dorms, fewer men pledged fraternities. As a result there are that many fewer beds in the dorms for incoming freshmen. MIT, however, cannot realistically admit a significantly smaller class without changing its dynamics. The administration seems to have planned for this, or at least thought about it [“Institute Uncertain on Housing Plans,” Nov. 22], and seems confident that they will still be able to accommodate a full size Class of 2007. What it seems they haven’t planned for, however, is the fact that a considerable number of males do not plan on leaving their dorm, but rather plan to remain affiliated with their fraternities while living in dorms.

Right now many freshmen are developing two separate social spheres, one revolving around their dorm friends, and one revolving around their fraternity brothers. Since they live with the former, these relationships have a tendency to be closer. Previously, when freshmen moved to FSILGs immediately, their social spheres were much more house-centered. Granted, they still had many friends outside the house, but they probably mostly lived with their best friends.

Out of a small group of friends that I asked, almost half seemed confident that they wanted to continue to live in dorms. This is a small sample size, and as houses put pressure on their pledges this number is sure to drop. But one can’t help worrying, by how much? This is a major issue because if a substantial minority of freshmen men do not move into their fraternities or ILGs, there will be very limited space for the incoming class. If of the close to three hundred new freshmen pledges, 20 percent, or 60, decide they would rather live in a single than a triple with a cold walk, then MIT is down a significant number of beds unexpectedly.

Not to mention the potential effect putting more frat boys into dorms could have on influencing girls to stick around. Worse yet, this issue will clearly snowball over years, unless MIT either comes up with a strategy, or builds some new buildings fast. Not only the incoming freshmen, however, have something to lose. If dorms become full of people who would rather not be there, the dorms’ unique personalities could be damaged. In addition, fraternities will find it ever more difficult to create a close brotherhood, when half the house doesn’t even live in it.

When MIT moved rush back and instituted the freshmen on campus policy it completely changed the nature of how some freshman view the Greek system. To many, a fraternity house is now more of a place to bring friends or party than it is a home.

Arun Agarwal is a member of the Class of 2006.