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Housing Team to Issue Report, Draft Includes Only Raw Data

By Keith J. Winstein


The Residence System Implementation Team, created in 2001 to develop and execute a plan for the revamped residence selection procedure, will dissolve next week after submitting its final report, said members of the team.

A Jan. 13 draft of the RSIT report, obtained by The Tech, includes a lengthy chronology of the 2002 residence selection process -- the first new system in more than 20 years -- and results from a series of surveys of freshmen and living groups conducted in fall 2002 by the team.

But the draft report makes no recommendations for changes in the residence system, generally declines to analyze the results of the surveys, and makes no mention of a widely-signed Dormitory Council petition last November that called for dormitory selection to be “brought back as an uninterrupted multiday event.”

Members of the team said the draft is substantially the same as a proposed final copy, which they said has been distributed to RSIT members by the report’s principal author -- Associate Dean Barbara A. Baker -- but was not provided to The Tech.

Baker could not be reached for comment.

Players differ over report’s role

Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine, one of the report’s two intended recipients, said he expected the RSIT’s experience to allow it to provide a “thoughtful assessment” of selection procedures.

“I assume they will be giving us their recommendations at that meeting” on Feb. 10, when the RSIT is slated to present its report, he said, including “what should be changed [and] what should stay the same.”

Members of the RSIT, however, said they did not view giving recommendations to be within the scope of their charter. The draft report leaves out almost any suggestion of a recommendation for changes to the system.

“If you think about what RSIT was charged to do, it was charged to implement the system, the new residence design,” said Anthony E. Gray, a residential life associate and an RSIT member.

For this reason, the report, Gray said, “doesn’t really have any recommendations about how to go about changing the system.”

“We decided over the fall that we were not going to let all our opinions go [in the report], and just survey the freshmen and interview the upperclassmen, said Grace R. Kessenich ’04, the Dormitory Council president, who served on the RSIT.

Instead, Kessenich said, RSIT intended its report to be about “‘How are we going to look at this data?,’ not ‘How do we think?’”

“A lot of the stuff that we had and that we want or don’t want is not in the report because that wasn’t the scope of the report,” she said. “It presents the data as a report should.”

New group to consider questions

Gray said that the question of recommendations or changes to residence selection would instead be considered by a new committee, as yet unnamed and unformed, to be established by Redwine and Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict as RSIT dissolves.

The new group will start from areas that the RSIT report identified as requiring resolution.

According to the draft report, those areas include “the appropriate and desirable length and structure of the residence orientation program; the timeframe for the formal aspects of the FSILG recruitment process; the issue of room squatting; and, ways to support and develop some of the under-subscribed theme houses to increase student participation.”

The RSIT report “doesn’t have any recommendations about how to change those things,” Gray said. “That will go to a new committee. A new group will make those sorts of decisions.”

Redwine said that he and Benedict are working on a plan for the new group, which will also help plan next year’s residence selection.

‘Room squatting’ raises eyebrows

One senior student government officer, who asked not to be named, said he was disappointed with the inclusion of “room squatting” in the list of “areas for resolution” in the report.

“That’s not the way we’ve considered it at all,” he said. “We’ve had Dean Benedict sign off on the joint UA-DormCon proposal that there is no room squatting,” he said.

“Room squatting,” a practice not present in 2002, refers to the ability of freshmen to choose to remain in the dormitory room assigned to them over the summer and occupied by them during orientation week.

Benedict could not be reached for comment.

Another practice that was first available to freshmen in 2002 -- the ability to remain in the dormitory they were assigned over the summer -- was not examined by the RSIT report, despite the general position of student organizations and living groups against it. This option, known as “dorm squatting,” was exercised by 82 percent of freshmen.

Kessenich said the RSIT did not view changing “dorm squatting” to be an option. “If you want to go by the Bacow report,” dorm squatting is a requirement of the new system, she said.

“I don’t think the issue any more is the Bacow report,” Redwine said. “It’s where we are now,” he said, adding that dorm squatting had been successful in allowing freshmen to select their housing over the summer.

The “Bacow report” is the December 1999 document The Design of the New Residence System by former Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72. The “new residence system” was the first to incorporate the controversial 1998 “freshmen-on-campus” decision and was first put into place in the fall of 2002, after Bacow’s July 2001 departure to become the president of Tufts University.

But changing parts of the system, even those prescribed by the report, remains an option, Redwine said. “I don’t think any report is inviolable.”

Draft omits mention of petition

In November, Kessenich spearheaded the Dormitory Council’s petition drive for dormitory selection to be “brought back as an uninterrupted multiday event.”

Kessenich said about 500 students signed the petition, but that it was never formally presented at a meeting of the RSIT because the team “only met sporadically,” she said.

The draft report leaves out any mention of the petition, although it does mention the question of “the appropriate and desirable length and structure of the residence orientation program” in its list of questions that will evidently be considered by the new, as yet unnamed and unformed, group.