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Crowding to Return In Fall, But Sparsely

By Brian Loux

ASSOCIATE FEATURES EDITOR

Administrators say it is likely that there will be a small amount of crowding next year in undergraduate dormitories, despite previous vows to the contrary.

But the number of students housed in crowded rooms, currently zero, will still be vastly less than the historical levels of 200 to 300 students, measured by this year’s designations of normal room capacity.

“There will be a handful at most of crowded rooms,” said Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict. “That is, unless something drastic happens ... and most of the variables are on our radar screen.”

It is those variables, though, and the number of them, that “make it really hard to tell right now” if crowding will occur, said Denise A. Vallay, the assistant director for undergraduate housing.

“I believe we won’t be certain ... until May,” Benedict said.

Administrators have had to retreat from their vows to eliminate overcrowded rooms completely. That goal was billed as one of the benefits of the newly-constructed 300-bed Simmons Hall dormitory and the “Senior Seque” early move into graduate housing for juniors.

Last November, Benedict and Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 were far more confident about keeping crowding, considered to be nonexistent this year, out of MIT dormitories for next year as well.

“Overcrowding is not an option as far as I’m concerned,” Benedict said then. There will not be crowding next year -- “not if I’m going to work here,” he said.

But the hard numbers of students indicating they plan to move out to fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups have forced a retreat from that confidence.

“To the best of our abilities, there will be no crowding,” Benedict said yesterday.

This year’s elimination of crowding was accomplished through a combination of the construction of Simmons, the Senior Segue program, and the redesignation of some historically crowded rooms as “traditional crowds.”

Benedict said that he and others successfully discouraged the Enrollment Management Group, headed by Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine, from aiming for a 2006 freshman class of 1040 to 1050. The class size is expected to be closer to 1000.

Benedict also discussed other options, such as accepting fewer freshman from the admissions waiting list, for alleviating crowding.

“My biggest concern,” Benedict said, “is a year from now with the fall [fraternity, sorority, and independent living group] recruiting. Hence, it is important that there is a successful FSILG recruitment period next fall and spring.”

Numbers still subject to change

The numbers for on-campus housing have inched closer to final, but still have a ways to go.

The sum of dormitory residents who have indicated they will not stay in undergraduate housing (785 or 761) the number of juniors who have applied for Senior Seque (105) and the number of currently vacant rooms (80) leads to a prediction that roughly 50 to 150 students will be housed in overcrowded rooms next year, depending on the size of the crowded rooms and the freshman class size.

Twenty-five undergraduates have yet to complete the online housing confirmation form.

Senior Seque has mixed results

Vallay said that although 105 juniors have applied for Senior Seque, some of the graduate dormitories were oversubscribed and that not all of the students may be able to be moved into graduate housing.

“A lot more people applied for Sidney-Pacific and NW30, so not everyone got it,” she said. “We sent e-mails to ask [those who did not receive their pick] if they would consider Ashdown or Tang.”