A recent proposal to allow second-semester freshmen to move into their respective fraternity, sorority, and independent living group (FSILGs) houses has generated campus-wide discussion. If implemented, it would be a major change to the 1998 decision that requires first year students to live in campus dormitories in response to the concerns about safety and risk management with the FSILG system.
The proposal, e-mailed by Brian T. Neltner G at the end of December, argues that second semester freshmen should have the freedom to move in with their FSILG for academic and social support.
“Our argument is that allowing freshmen to live with their chosen primary support group — be it a FSILG, dorm, or even off-campus — is the best option for freshmen,” said Neltner.
The e-mail mentions that allowing freshmen to move to their FSILG second term could help to alleviate dorm overcrowding. Most of the discussion generated by the e-mail has centered around this argument, debating its validity and impact. According to current MIT Housing and Admissions statistics, overcrowding may be a future issue, but it is not currently one of the greatest concerns.
“Given that all freshmen are housed on campus, the size of the student body is determined by the amount of space we have in the housing system,” said Stuart Schmill ‘86, the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions. “We aren’t planning on increasing the number of students we enroll unless there is space in the housing system.”
Some argued that FSILGs benefit financially from second semester freshmen from fraternity dues.
Others expressed concern that a surge of freshmen would overcrowd FSILGs.
“FSILGs can and do control how many people are moving into the house each year. For most fraternities, if there is space in the house, brothers will be allowed to move in,” said Michael Harradon ’13, a freshman in Zeta Psi, in response to the concern.
Concerns were further voiced that living groups may be less safe than dorms, but those in support of the proposal said that argument was irrelevant and that freshmen are adults, capable of making their own decisions.
Both Undergraduate Association President Michael A. Bennie ’10 and Secretary General Elizabeth A. Denys ’11 have yet to be persuaded to support the proposal.
“The proposal is not a bad idea, but my biggest concern lies with the lack of focus in the e-mailed discussions about the beneficial impacts for the FSILGs,” commented Denys.
“I don’t know if there is support for this proposal from any major MIT organizations, such as the UA and FSILG office, in its entirety. Also, there may be an unfair advantage for fraternities with more openings in their houses when it comes to recruiting freshmen. As the way it is now, I think it’s unlikely for the proposal to go through,” added Bennie.
Those in agreement with allowing only second-semester freshmen to live off-campus emphasize the importance of the first semester on campus for freshmen.
“The first semester gives freshmen the opportunity to experience MIT’s dorm culture and make friends outside of their respective FSILGs,” said Sebastian Velez ’12, a brother of Theta Delta Chi.
Others suggested a change more radical than that in the proposal — allowing first semester freshmen to move into their FSILG.
“There’s nothing inherently dangerous about living groups, and they are probably as safe as dorms and provide a similar kind of community,” said Kyle A. Miller ’12, a member of Tau Epsilon Phi.
“By the second semester, many freshmen want to become closer to their FSILG members, and are eager to move to their houses.”
Many freshmen do unofficially move to their FSILG houses. This phenomenon, referred to as “ghosting,” leaves empty beds in the names of those not using their registered dorm housing.
In light of the criticisms surrounding the proposal, Neltner does not think it is appropriate to make revisions, for the changes may no longer reflect the opinions of the many individuals who have signed in support of it.
“We’ve had an amazingly positive response from across the student and alumni body already, but we are still hopeful for a great deal of additional feedback,” said Neltner. He hopes that an actual committee will eventually form to further investigate the proposal.
In the first week after the proposal was sent, roughly 350 students and 225 alumni signed a petition in support of the motion. The petition is viewable at http://fsilg-housing.org/.