Professor Jay Scheib, newly appointed housemaster of Senior House, said he’s excited to become part of what he calls a “really special place.” Registration Day found him and half the house residents eating Chinese takeout on the floor of his then-unfurnished apartment. As per Scheib’s request, most were sporting “creative cocktail attire.”
“We were going to try to cook for the whole house, which is a very big task, but the snows came, so we ordered Chinese food,” said Scheib. He hopes to try cooking for everyone again sometime in the near future.
Scheib’s talents extend far beyond the kitchen, however. Author of such plays as Untitled Mars and 2012 Off-Broadway Theater Award winner World of Wires, he now serves as a professor of Music and Theater Arts and as director of the Program in Theater Arts at MIT.
In his capacity as a director and professor, Scheib interacts daily with many Senior House students, who were instrumental in his decision to apply for the position of housemaster.
“Having been asked by students in the past to apply, that’s really what got me thinking about it,” said Scheib. “I love the students here at MIT and working in the arts means that I have engagements with the students that last beyond the classroom.”
Scheib felt a connection with Senior House early on, even before becoming housemaster. Many of the dorm’s residents are his students, and he is friends with many Senior House alumni. “I’ve always heard about Senior House and I’ve always felt really close to it,” Scheib said.
The housemaster application process included interviews with Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88, Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo, and a housemaster search committee that included other housemasters and members of the Senior House student government.
After being selected as one of three final candidates, Scheib was interviewed by Senior House residents. He estimates that about 40 students were in attendance. “They all had so many questions,” he said.
According to Scheib, residents were primarily concerned with the preservation of their dorm culture, which Scheib is eager to uphold. Scheib said he believes that his role as housemaster is not to alter, but to contribute to, Senior House’s strongly established culture. While he hopes to be present in this culture, he strives not to interfere with the daily lives of students. “Everybody’s an adult, so I prefer that everybody just acts like adults,” he said.
Residents also asked several questions about Scheib’s views on dorm policies. “I’m not making policies,” he said. “My task is really to represent the students, it really is.”
When asked about possible changes he might make as housemaster, Scheib responded that he was not interested in making any major changes. He does, however, hope to improve public spaces around the house and ensure that students are provided with the resources they need for their artistic pursuits. Scheib also talked about his plans for social activities. Cooking is of course on his list, but he’s also considering inviting performance artist Adrienne Truscott, a controversial stand-up comedian.
He answered residents’ questions about murals, cats, and other aspects of Senior House culture as well.
Scheib’s interview allowed him to further acquaint himself with Senior House culture. “I felt like there was a really great sense of mutual respect and openness,” he said. “The only thing that they don’t tolerate very well is intolerance. I find that pretty great.”
After a final review by administrators, Scheib was selected to be Senior House’s next housemaster. He moved into his new apartment at the end of IAP, and was hosting dinner parties the next day.
When asked whether he plans to stay at Senior House long-term, Scheib responded, “You know what, I love it. I love it. So, sure. I think 20 years … I mean it just sounds like such an amazing legacy.”
Scheib’s next act as housemaster? Cracking down on ice cream thieves.
“Recently there’s been a rash of people stealing food from the kitchens. I hope that stops. So whoever’s stealing the ice cream out there better watch out, because that’s just not okay.”