Bexley Hall has decided to stop paying its yearly $1,200 tax to the Dormitory Council and will not be represented by Dormcon, effectively seceding from the organization.
Independent and sometimes anarchic, Bexley residents have a tradition of not participating in student government or Dormcon. However, Bexley has been taxed by Dormcon since 2001, an incongruity with their principles that residents only noticed this fall. Residents contend that they were never represented by Dormcon and that they received no benefits from their membership. But Dormcon’s president says that Bexley has benefited from the organization’s advocacy and is part of the community.
The conflict peaked last week, when about 25 Bexley residents went to the March 12 Dormcon meeting and asked the organization to stop taxing Bexley residents. Dormcon has agreed not to tax Bexley in the future, but declined to refund taxes paid in prior years.
“In our eyes Bexley has been part of Dormcon because they are a dorm and we represent all dorms,” said Sarah C. Hopp ’08, Dormcon’s president.
Katherine L. Cheney ’09, a Bexley Hall resident, said that Bexley “has never been a part of Dormcon.” She said that Bexley does not send representatives to Dormcon and does not consider itself a member. “What has been misinterpreted as our secession is actually just us trying to clear up an accounting error.”
Cheney said that “there was a misunderstanding in 2001 during which the Dormcon president took it upon himself to start taxing Bexley.” Cheney said that Bexley has since been taxed “a total of $9,280, none of which Dormcon has agreed to reimburse.”
Dormcon receives $5 per semester from the house tax of all undergraduates who live in dormitories. In total, Dormcon receives $1,200 per year from Bexley.
Hopp said that Dormcon will not return taxes already collected because Dormcon has provided services such as early return housing, funding for Residence Exploration events during Orientation, and advocacy on behalf of dormitory interests.
However, Robert M. Randolph, Bexley’s housemaster and the Institute Chaplain, said that Bexley residents don’t get any benefits from Dormcon.
“Bexley doesn’t get money from Dormcon to do things Bexley wishes to do,” he said. Bexley benefits from “other reasons for early returns such as sports,” Randolph said, and Bexley does not participate in REX.
Randolph said that he has heard many students say that they don’t have a voice in the MIT administration, and that he doesn’t know whether Dormcon has a voice that represents students.
Hopp said that Dormcon is “more of a confederacy than a governing body” and does not impose rules on dorms, although there are a few exceptions. One is that Dormcon organizes a dinner at each dormitory during REX. Another is the Interactive Introduction to the Institute videos, shown to incoming freshmen to help them find an appropriate dorm. Bexley will still produce an i3 video for the Housing Office. “Consistency is important for freshmen,” Hopp said about the videos.
Advocacy, dinners, judicial process may change
Despite Bexley’s assertions that they receive no benefits from Dormcon membership, they will likely see some changes in the future as Dormcon excludes the dormitory from certain activities.
Dormcon will not exclude Bexley when advocating on dormitories’ behalf, Hopp said, but it will “encourage administrators to invite Bexley to represent themselves.”
Hopp said that Bexley will have to take responsibility for organizing a dinner during REX.
Bexley residents will also not have access to Dormcon’s judicial committee, which settles disciplinary issues without involving MIT administrators, Hopp said.
“Bexley was made aware of all of these losses before leaving Dormcon,” she said.
Cheney said that Bexley has never asked Dormcon for representation and will fund a dinner if it is a mandatory REX event.
Randolph said that residents “didn’t realize that money was being taken away from them” until there was a change in how bills were presented. Residents tried to opt out of the tax in the fall, Randolph said, and they have “made a stronger effort this year.”
Randolph said that Bexley will probably not get past taxes refunded. “[I’m] sure Dormcon has spent the money,” he said.
He said that “Dormcon should make itself more attractive to Bexley” if it wants Bexley’s participation.
Hopp said that Dormcon has encouraged Bexley in the past to come to Dormcon meetings.
“I encourage them to be thoughtful and polite and clear — and think about acceptable compromises,” Randolph said.
Dormitories have considered leaving Dormcon before, although not for disestablishmentarian reasons. In December 1976, Burton House, Baker House, and MacGregor House threatened to secede from Dormcon over policy differences. They would have formed a “West Campus alliance.”