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infographic by connor kirschbaum
The graphs show the net flux of all requested undergraduate dorm transfers. Net flux is defined as the number of people requesting to move into a dorm minus the number of people requesting to move out of the dorm, normalized by dividing this difference by the capacity of the respective dorm.
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Next semester marks the first year of MIT’s new undergraduate dining plan, requiring students who live in Simmons, McCormick, Baker, Next, and Maseeh Hall to purchase meal plans ranging from $2,500–$4,500 per year. Opponents to the plan have suggested that the cost may be prohibitive for some, driving students away from dorms where they otherwise would have liked to live. Here we present a breakdown of requests for transfers to and from every dorm from 2008–2011. Data from prior to 2008 is not available, nor do we yet know how dining plans will affect how freshmen pick dorms. However, with these data we can begin to ask whether dining changes significantly impacted dorm popularity.

First, an important note: These data show requests to move into or out of a dorm in the April housing lottery. They do not reflect the number of people who actually moved.

A useful metric is the “net flux” of requests to enter or leave a dormitory; that is, the number of people who request to enter a dorm minus the number who request to leave. Here, those numbers are plotted as a percentage of a dorm’s total capacity (positive numbers reflect more “in” than “out” requests). We have also provided data on the absolute number of people who requested moves.

Note that the number of people who request transfers in the April lottery generally constitute a small fraction of a dorm’s total population. In most buildings, net in-minus-out fluxes are between -10 and +10 percent over the past four years, except Bexley. Next House hovers just under -10 percent. Therefore, since 2008, a relatively small number of students request dorm changes, with 2011 being no exception.

Two dorms with dining halls, Simmons and Next, show little change in popularity this year as compared to previous. Baker dropped from around +10 percent net popularity to 0 percent, while McCormick fell from around +6 percent to -4 percent. Maseeh has not been plotted, since this year it transitions from the 50-person Phoenix Group to the 462-bed dormitory, and a separate application process solicited Maseeh applicants earlier in the semester.

With a 4-year history, it cannot be said that changes in transfer requests to and from dining dorms is solely attributable to the implementation of a new dining plan, considering 1) there is probably some normal year-to-year variation that a 4-year window may not capture and 2) two of the four current dining dorms did not show any appreciable change. Even if decreases in the popularity of dining dorms were solely attributable to dining changes, the number of people involved are small percentages of total dorm populations — the reader can decide whether the magnitude of those changes constitute shifts in dorm culture.

Dining opponents also said that dining plans may impact dorm selections among freshmen, which we will not know until the freshmen make their final dorm selections.