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Dorms to Be Crowded Because of 2008 Yield

By Ray C. He

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

Based on current numbers, dormitories will be crowded by approximately 150 students this fall, said Denise A. Vallay, assistant director of undergraduate housing. Part of the problem can be attributed to over-enrollment in the class of 2008, she said.

These numbers do not take into account students who cancel housing over the summer, she said.

“The number that will be crowded depends on what we do between here and” the fall, said Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75. “Quite frankly, I don’t know what we’re going to do yet, but we’re going to work on it because we don’t want that level of crowding,” he said.

A feasibility study for a new dormitory as a long-term solution, and an examination of immediate solutions to the crowding issue, are underway, Clay said.

Crowding to change over summer

“We have just over 150 anticipated crowds now, but there’s a lot of things that can change between now and September. I expect there’ll be some people who are confirmed now who’ll cancel for the fall,” Vallay said. “The number changes every day” because of incoming freshmen declining enrollment and upperclassmen canceling housing, she said.

The housing cancellations are somewhat balanced by students who decide that they need housing. “We also have some students returning from leaves of absence that we need to house,” Vallay said. Additionally, “we have students coming from England who are participating in” the Cambridge-MIT Exchange.

While the final number of crowded spaces should be lower than it is now, “it is going to cause an issue with housing,” she said.

Overcrowding usually not an issue

The admissions office’s target of 1,030 students would have overfilled the dormitories by approximately 90 students. Because of the cancellations in housing, this would have resulted in little or less actual crowding, Vallay said.

“You always want to open with over 100 percent capacity because you’re never as full in the dorms as you are on opening day,” Vallay said. “There will be people who have confirmed and then cancel it. People will leave, move off campus, move into an FSILG, or graduate at the end of fall term,” she said.

While “there’s a degree of over-fullness that’s comfortable,” this year’s class size of nearly 1,100 students is expected to exceed the housing capacity even after the waves of cancellations, she said.

Committee to find solution

For the past several months, a feasibility group under Larry G. Benedict, the dean for student life, has been working to determine whether a new dormitory should be built, Clay said. “A dorm would still be some years away,” he said. “There’s no way to get a dorm up in short order.”

“The process of getting a new dorm would be a plan presented that would have to be approved by the Building Committee and the Corporation and you have to come up with the money and so on and so forth,” Clay said. “We’re talking years before we’ll be able to turn on new housing,” he said.

The admissions office will not target smaller class sizes to alleviate crowding, Clay said. “That’s not an immediate solution anyways. We already have, in the pipeline, a class size of 1,100 and we’re above what we projected for this year.”

“It’s not wise policy to drag class sizes up and down. That makes for odd configurations,” Clay said. “I don’t think dropping the class size is a reasonable solution. I think the long-term solution is to get more housing,” he said.

An immediate solution has not been found, but Clay says that he will help the crowding problem.

“We are going to do something about it,” Clay said. “I don’t know quite we’re going to do so I can’t tell you what that's going to be, but I don’t anticipate that level of crowding in September,” he said.

FSILG vacancies not to be used

While allowing freshmen to live in fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups would help alleviate crowding, given the projected 340 empty beds in FSILGs next year, a return to this system is not under consideration.

“That’s not going to happen, freshmen off-campus,” Clay said. “It took us several years to switch and I don’t think we want to, in the next several weeks or months, change back,” he said.

“The aim of the policy was to provide an academic orientation and introduction for freshmen under the supervision of the housemasters,” Clay said.

Financial burdens on FSILGs continue to worsen as the number of empty beds increase. MIT will continue to support FSILGs financially in the last year of the three-year transition plan, Clay said. “We’re not giving up on transition.”

The financial troubles will not end with the funding and nothing had been decided about further support. “We’re working on that,” Clay said. “That’s a separate problem” from overcrowding, he said. Many FSILGs “had problems even when freshmen lived in them.”

“I admit that freshmen on campus exacerbated the problem, but it certainly didn’t cause it,” he said.

Dorms not as full as in 2001-2002

Currently, with 919 new vacancies in undergraduate housing (456 from the class of 2004, 215 from the classes of 2005 and 2006, and 248 from the Class of 2007), no crowding at all this year, and an incoming class size of approximately 1,090, the number of freshmen will exceed the number of free spaces by 171.

Assuming that some rooms would be created from lounge spaces, some doubles would be crowded into triples, and some singles into doubles, more than twice that many students will live in crowded rooms, given current numbers.

Crowding this year should not be as significant as in previous years, Vallay said. For 2001-2002, the number of freshmen over the capacity of the housing system was 200, even after the summer, she said.

“That was the year we had to turn New House doubles to quads. It was very tight,” Vallay said. But “it is safe to say that it won’t be like that” this year.

Where to crowd chosen by chart

“For many years now, there has been a chart of crowding,” Vallay said. “If we need to crowd, we know which buildings have the bathroom capacity.”

Some considerations for space and bathroom availability must be taken into account. For example, “if there’s one bathroom on the hall, we don’t want to stick an extra five people in there,” she said.

In “Simmons, for example, you can’t fit an extra set of furniture into a room,” Random Hall does not have enough bathrooms per floor to accommodate extra students, and in “Senior House, the rooms are small,” Vallay said.

“Typically the buildings that can be crowded are Baker, Burton-Conner, East Campus, McCormick, New, Next, and MacGregor,” Vallay said.