The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 71.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Some Dorms Crowd Freshmen Despite Administration Pledge

By Christine R. Fry


Baker House, Burton-Conner, East Campus, and New House have been assigned more freshmen than they have room openings, at least during Orientation. As a result, rooms in the dormitories will be “crowded” to accommodate the additional students.

The level of dormitory crowding is of unusual interest this year as the Institute completes its transition to a housing system in which all freshmen live on campus. A poor fraternity rush and slightly larger than expected freshman class made it difficult for the administration to live up to its promise of no crowds in dormitories.

“At the time we ran the lottery [in July], we had 969 spaces and 1,027 freshmen. We crowded 57 freshmen,” and one exchange student, said Denise A. Vallay of the housing office.

“Since the day we ran the lottery, we’ve had 53 housing cancellations,” she said. These cancellations include freshmen who decided over the summer not to attend MIT and upperclassmen who have cancelled their on-campus housing.

The cancellations allowed Next House to eliminate crowding. However the crowding in the other four dormitories will remain at least through the next week, until the adjustment lottery, which closes on Aug. 26.

Crowding is “turning out to be much less than we thought,” said Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict.

Crowding is “not beneficial to anyone,” said Nikki Johnson ’04, Dormitory Council housing chair, but “it’s not like it was in the past.”

New House plans to have eight doubles crowded to triples, said Housing Chair Christine P. Fleming ’04. “There won’t be too many triples,” she said. Fleming expressed hope that the adjustment lottery would alleviate crowding, but said, “we like to keep our freshmen.”

There were no crowds in New House last year. Crowding in 2001 required doubles to be converted to quads.

Housing numbers ‘on par’

As of Wednesday, there were 1,022 freshmen entering the housing system and two freshmen commuting from home.

“The freshmen number was probably on par with our expectations,” Vallay said.

Ninety seniors elected to participate in Senior Segue, fewer than the allotted 140 spaces. The remaining spaces were returned to the graduate housing office.

Two hundred sixty-three sophomores have cancelled their on-campus housing. David N. Rogers, assistant dean and director of fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, said that 229 sophomores, 83 percent of those who pledged last year, were moving into FSILGs.

“The freshmen cancellations [number] was higher,” than expected, Vallay said.

Cultural houses surrender rooms

In order to keep crowding to a minimum, New House has filled vacant spaces in the five cultural houses with freshmen who are not affiliated with the houses during Orientation.

The houses were given an opportunity to contact freshmen before the July housing lottery in order to recruit new members. Any vacancies after that recruitment period were filled with freshmen for Orientation.

“Cultural houses are being encouraged to do strong recruiting,” during Orientation, Johnson said.

Cultural houses will be allowed to fill vacant spaces with freshmen recruited during Orientation only if the freshmen are accepted into New House through the adjustment lottery.

Transfer students can not fill the vacant spaces because they are not guaranteed housing and must be on the on-campus housing waiting list in order to receive MIT housing, said Mika A. Tomczak ’06, housing chair for French House. The on-campus housing waiting list is comprised of students who chose to move off-campus and now would like to return to on-campus housing.

Housing chairs from Spanish House did not immediately return requests for comment.

Benedict said that the policy governing cultural house vacancies was developed last year by the New House housemaster, housing chairs, and cultural houses.

“There was a really informal meeting held by the housemaster,” and open to all the cultural houses, Tomczak said. She said that French House agreed to give up certain rooms if crowding occurred in New House. “We weren’t really sure we would resort to that,” she said.

French House recruited six freshmen over the summer and have three vacant spaces that they will attempt to fill during Orientation.

Tomczak said that if a student decides to join French House later in the semester, they will, “encourage them to join as a social member first” and then the student could potentially move into the house the following year.

Benedict does not think that the New House situation will hurt cultural houses by preventing prospective members from moving into the houses later in the semester.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a drawback,” he said.

Lottery may change situation

Vallay said that the adjustment lottery may alleviate the situation in the crowded dormitories.

“We’re hoping with the adjustment lottery, things will even out,” she said.

After dormitory rush, freshmen have the opportunity to enter the adjustment lottery to either notify the housing office that they intend to stay in the same dormitory that they are currently in or rank four alternative dormitories to move into.

According to Vallay, crowding could be eliminated in crowded dormitories if fewer students requested to transfer into a dormitory than students who requested to transfer out of the dormitory. More students can not move into a dormitory than students who request to move out.

Counseling and support services reserves a certain number of rooms for students who return from a leave of absence. Rooms that are not used for this purpose return to the housing pool and may help to alleviate crowding, Vallay said.

If there are more housing cancellations in crowded dormitories in the coming days, Vallay said that she will not fill those spaces with students from the on-campus housing waiting list until after final freshmen housing assignments are made, in order to reduce crowding.

Benedict said that even if the adjustment lottery did not resolve all of the crowded situations, crowding “tends to even itself out” within the second or third weeks of the semester. Freshmen who are still in crowded situations after the lottery will be notified when vacancies occur within their dormitory and may be notified of open spaces in other dormitories if they want to transfer.

EC volunteered for crowds

East Campus has been assigned 113 freshmen and the dormitory normally has space for approximately 95 freshmen, said Vice President Emily E. Cofer ’04.

“We volunteered as one of the dorms to crowd,” she said. Crowded rooms will be the larger singles crowded to doubles. These rooms are not smaller than most doubles on campus, Cofer said.

“We were told that it will pretty much stay that number,” Cofer said of the number of freshmen assigned to the dormitory. She estimated that twenty people will be affected by the crowding situation.