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Orientation to Precede Dorm Housing Lottery

By Beckett W. Sterner and Lauren E. LeBon


The schedule for Orientation 2004 moves the freshmen housing lottery until after the end of Orientation, and also shortens the length of Orientation to four days.

The decision to move the housing lottery back was made primarily to separate the academically-focused orientation program from dormitory rush and the housing process, said Chairman of the Orientation Committee J. Kim Vandiver.

Vandiver said that the decision was a consequence of past experiences when both dormitories and fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups held rush during orientation. “The Orientation events just suffered,” he said. “Rush dominated the week.”

He said that there was no direct student input into the current schedule, but he and Associate Dean of Academic Resources Julie B. Norman have met in the past few days with representatives from the Undergraduate Association, ILTFP (a student activist group), and others.

“We’ve been getting student input for two years,” said Vandiver, and Orientation is “still all a work in progress.”

Dormitory Council President Emily E. Cofer ’04 said that “next year we’d like to see some marked improvement in terms of consulting” with student government.

“We thought that the actual overall orientation material was overall very well organized,” she said, but “as it stands now, the ability for freshmen to go through an in-house rush is next to zero.”

She said that Dormcon was in the process of consulting with the Undergraduate Association and Interfraternity Council, and that they were planning an official response to the schedule this week.

Timing of dorm rush not fixed

While many events during Orientation are fixed in the schedule, the current draft does not specify the exact timing of residence exploration or the housing lottery, although it requires they happen after the end of Orientation on Friday September 3, 2004.

The events, whose order in the schedule are fixed, are those which must occur before freshman registration or depend on the schedules of speakers, said Elizabeth C. Young, assistant director of enterprise services.

Specifically, freshman registration requires that each form be entered into a computer database by hand before the regular MIT Registration Day, which takes several days. This means that all advanced standing exams, learning group explorations, and the academic expo must happen before freshmen registration on Thursday, Sept. 2, Young said.

Other events, such as an alcohol awareness talk or women and minority events, have not yet been determined beyond having two evenings set aside during Orientation as place holders.

Vandiver said that he was open to discussion about the relative orders and timing of residence exploration, FSILG rush, and the housing lottery. If someone gave him a convincing argument, he said, “I’d say fine.”

“I think it’s in the FSILG’s interest if [the housing lottery] happened later,” Vandiver said. He said that it was important to consider the housing system as a whole, including both FSILGs and dormitories, and that it was important to help support living groups in the transition period following freshmen living entirely on campus.

Ultimately, Vandiver said, the best system for housing would be the one with “the fewest students who were unhappy with where they were put first.”

Housing events spread over weeks

Currently, residence exploration events are scheduled for four days from Friday until Monday, which is Labor Day. Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict said that one possibility for a freshman move-out day following the lottery was the four day weekend several weeks into September. Vandiver said that FSILG rush was assumed to begin the Friday after Labor Day as it did this year.

However, the schedule does not set aside a time during Orientation for in-house rush between floors or living groups.

It “poses a big problem of in-house rooming,” Cofer said. Dormcon would likely seek to move residence exploration and in-house rush “back, during or before Orientation events begin,” she said.

She said that a later Orientation would not mean more upperclassmen to represent dormitories or floors because those students not returning early would arrive right before classes started, and would not be any more able to contribute to community events.

Later lottery may hurt dorm life

MIT’s housing system changed drastically in the fall of 2002 when freshmen were required to live on campus for the first time in decades. Additionally, freshmen were allowed to remain in the dormitory they were initially assigned to, essentially opting out of the housing lottery, and FSILG rush was moved to the middle of the term.

Some students believe that allowing freshmen to opt out of the housing lottery will be detrimental to dormitory culture and distinctiveness.

Cofer said that “this is seriously going to impact the ability of dorms to maintain their cultures.”

Pi-Han Lin ’04 said there “will definitely be a lot of students who will not want to go through the hassle, even if they prefer another dorm or another side of campus.”

“I think with each incoming freshman class, dorm cultures will fade away. I think it’s regrettable,” said Lin. “With implementations like this, the Institute is not giving students enough degrees of freedom to explore dorm cultures they will fit into.”

Last year, only 140 freshmen, or one-seventh of the freshmen class, requested to transfer dormitories, and 80 were able to move. This fall, 200 freshmen made requests to move, but only 110 of the requests were fulfilled.

A questionnaire on the housing lottery form that freshmen filled out last year indicated that 98 percent were “content” with their housing assignment.

Ubong Ukoh ’04 said that the three day residence exploration period will not have much of an effect on dormitory rush.

“I don’t think it’s significant,” Ukoh said.

As for the adjustment lottery, “It’ll definitely make people stay in the same places.”

When asked to compare his Orientation in 2002 to the proposed new Orientation schedule, Ukoh said “I think the old method has more pros than cons, and I would suggest that they use the old method.”