As MIT Tech Talk was about to go to press last night, President Charles M. Vest issued this letter to the MIT community.
To MIT students, faculty and staff:
This morning I asked for and received the unanimous endorsement of the Academic Council to house all freshman students in campus residence halls, starting in the fall of 2001, when the new undergraduate dormitory will be ready. This decision represents a major step in our commitment to enhancing our educational community and better integrating student life and learning.
The fine report of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning provides a marvelous vision for building a learning experience grounded in a triad of education, research and community at MIT. In my view, the publication of this report, which will be available in final form next week, makes this the appropriate moment to begin to think about "how" rather than "whether."
This decision has been informed by nearly a year of thoughtful debate and correspondence about student housing, and by my personal review of the numerous faculty and student reports over the years that have recommended such a course.
I want to make clear my belief that fraternities, sororities and independent living groups should and will continue to be important and valued elements in our campus life, and that MIT should assist them in managing the transition to a new system. Representatives of both FSILGs and residence halls, together with faculty, administrators and alumni representatives, will be involved in designing our future residential system and the transition to it. This planning will be carried out in the context of the overall recommendations of the Task Force as well as the broad campus consensus that freshmen should not be housed separately and should be given a degree of personal choice within the residence hall system
Frankly, I have had concerns about announcing this decision before the term begins, but I believe we should all enter the academic year working together to create a more integrated residential system -- one that enhances the introduction of new students into the life and ethos of MIT, and that fosters a mutually supportive, academically oriented environment for all our students.
Charles M. Vest
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 26, 1998.