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Crowding in Dormitories Is the Same As Last Year, Despite Remedial Efforts

By Christine Lee

Undergraduate dormitories are overcrowded by 71 students, said Robin Smedick, assistant director of undergraduate housing.

All dormitories except German House that can accommodate crowding are crowded, she said last Wednesday.

This year’s smaller incoming class — 995 freshmen as opposed to last year’s 1,080 — should have relieved crowding. Because of a greater number of upperclassmen living in dormitories, however, the number of students in crowded rooms is almost identical, Smedick said. Last year, the number of crowds was 70.

Under normal circumstances some students in crowded rooms would have moved into vacant rooms. Because MIT recently admitted 11 undergraduate students from schools affected by Hurricane Katrina, however, the Housing Office delayed decrowding.

Crowding a long-term problem

In early 2002, Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 vowed to eliminate dormitory crowding, achieving his goal the following academic year. Crowding returned in fall 2003, however, and the undergraduate dormitories have remained crowded since.

Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict said in 2002 that crowding was not an option for the MIT housing system. When asked about this pledge, he said that MIT would continue to admit a smaller incoming class and encourage more undergraduates to live in fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, as well as look into building a new dormitory. According to a previous housing plan, however, at least part of a new dormitory’s capacity might be taken up by displaced students whose regular dormitories could be closed for renovations.

Crowding relieved over summer

The Housing Office begins estimating crowds at the beginning of the summer, based on the numbers of upperclassmen confirmed for housing, incoming freshmen accepted, and transfer students.

“Most schools open at 105 percent [of capacity] to account for students who leave,” Smedick said. “We want to make sure we’re at the maximum housing capacity throughout the year, while still taking into consideration the needs of students, knowing that more than five percent crowding could potentially create a level of dissatisfaction.”

Throughout the summer, upperclassman cancellations and freshman called “melts” — admitted students who cancel or defer — lowered the initial estimate of 86 crowded students to 71.