Campus Profile -- Christopher P. Possinger
ILTFP leader discusses the campaign for preserving dorm rush and the MIT way of life
associate features editor
News of the administration’s decision to turn orientation into a more academic experience came to many students as an unwanted Valentine’s Day present. Amidst controversy, the decision sparked a reawakening of the group ILTFP (I Love This Place), which has been considerably dormant since 1999. The group, whose name is a spin on the more familiar acronym IHTFP (I Hate This Fucking Place), has advocated more student involvement in student life decisions and responds to concerns that “recent administrative policies are endangering the aspects of MIT that we consider special and unique,” as their Web site states.
Student activism has had its share of ups and downs. While fighting tooth and nail was not able to preserve Rush, it was able to dissuade the administration from adopting a mandatory meal plan and to convince administrators to open campus dining facilities to competition. How this round will fare is anyone’s guess.
Though the hierarchal organization of ILTFP is intentionally loose, The Tech sat down with Christopher P. Possinger ’05, one of the leaders of ILTFP, about the campaign for dormitory rush and the future of student life at MIT.
The Tech: What is the most important benefit to dorm rush that overrides the benefits of greater academic immersion?
Christopher P. Possinger: We don’t oppose the academic things they are trying to do. We understand that it is a tight schedule that cannot allow for every activity. We think there is a place for [dorm exploration in] orientation. That is because it is the one thing that makes MIT so special. Random housing isn’t the greatest evil known to man, but our housing system is the greatest thing we have.
Other schools are adopting similar programs as well. It allows for tight-knit communities and friendships, which you need at a place where there is so much pressure. We want to keep that here. It seems, depending on which administrators that you ask, that it is slowly being phased out, as if it is not important. We think that it is important.
TT: A similar protest situation occurred with the mandatory meal plan proposal a year ago. Do you think that this series of proposals and protests is a cycle that will continue as time goes on?
Possinger: We hope not. One of our overarching goals is to get a student voice in the administration. A lot of time the decisions come directly from high levels of administration that say they are acting with the best interest of the students. And [the decisions] affect our lives pretty strongly. Some of the times, they make these decisions without receiving student input. [So] they think that they are making these decisions in our best interest, but a lot of times their idea of our interest and our best interest are two different things.
So we hope to get more student input in on the things that are important in our lives, though getting dorm rush back is our first concern right now.
TT: What do you think are the most important benefits to MIT’s student life that you feel may be threatened?
Possinger: I think one would be our voice -- it is not in danger of being removed by force, but it is in danger of being ignored. The problem here, as with the dining plan, is that these issues come as a surprise to the student body.
It is hard [to say what the other potential threats to student life are], because often these things come as surprises, and that is the problem.
TT: The administration’s proposal may not have occurred if [the Dormitory Council] had submitted their recommendations regarding dorm rush earlier. How can students be considered a viable part of community decisions, or take a greater role in them, if the channels currently given to them are unable to function properly?
Possinger: I think one of the things about Dormcon is that they are very large and very bureaucratic, and as such they can’t react to change very quickly. The thing about ILTFP is that we have some organization, but it is not entrenched and not definite. It’s a trade-off between responsibility and adaptability.
Some of the advantages of our group are that we can assess changes more easily and we are not an entrenched organization. For instance, we are all focused on this one goal right now. We will move on in the future, but we are all committed to seeing dorm rush stay. And that is one thing that Dormcon and the UA cannot do.
TT: What causes will ILTFP move onto in the future? Is there any plans to discuss the Residence Based Advising programs or the FSILG rush?
Possinger: Those are two good issues that we may take up in the future. We see that there are definitely problems with the FSILG rush and those groups are working hard to correct them. They seem to have a good rapport with the administrators.
There are many problems related to dorm rush we could go after [right now], but the problem is that they cannot be addressed by the same people that we are speaking to currently. There are also different parties involved with RBA.
TT: Faculty members were a considerable force in reforming Pass/ No Record. Do you think they may be a swing vote in this case, and do you plan on attempting to attract some to your cause?
Possinger: Yeah, we’re definitely trying to get them involved. It can’t hurt to have their involvement. They would seem to have more authority over this issue. There have been many problems in the past that have been resolved by the faculty.
[The protests against overtaking] the Dot and the mandatory meal plan have had faculty support and that went a long way because the administrators realized that they did not have support of their peers and colleagues. When they have people that they know, work with, and trust telling them what they should and should not do, that carries a lot of weight.
TT: Significant changes to student life have occurred at MIT since 1997. Do you think that your actions here will only delay the inevitable?
Possinger: [These changes were] not because of a big commitment or agenda; it was thought to be for the best interest of the students. Our problem was that they ignored student input or they heard about our concerns and thought we were radicals. It’s our job to show them we are not and that it’s in our and their best interest to keep some of the things as they are.
I don’t think these things are inevitable. Although there are a lot of student groups, there are a lot of important decisions made without student input. If we could get that to change somehow, by either changing how students are put on committees or [by] sit-ins in Lobby 10 and show them that we have a good deal of the student body behind us, we can accomplish what we want and they want.
TT: Imagine you came back to MIT in 2050. What kind of Institute do you think you would see?
Possinger: I’m sure it would remain a world-class institution, I just want to see it as the special place I see it today. I think that one of the best things is just the way that we have the larger MIT community and the smaller communities. Then there are the even smaller communities. One thing I expect to see in such a high-pressure environment is tight-knit groups. That could be a sort of dorm group or people from freshmen advising programs. But these groups have to continue. Otherwise people will begin to have a lot of problems because things won’t be able to be the same. If dorm selection, as well as FSILG selection, remain important to our lives, I think that will be the best for everyone.