Because fewer incoming freshmen may choose to live in fraternities, sororities and independent living groups (FSILGs), upperclass students will be housed this fall in Tang Hall, a graduate residence.
Undergraduates may volunteer for assignment to the MIT-subsidized rooms at Tang. Space will be available for about 65 undergraduates. Even before an official announcement had been made, about 40 inquiries via e-mail, the web and in person were received. No freshmen are expected to be placed in Tang.
Most of the present residents of Tang are first-year graduate students who will move out at the end of this academic year. In the fall, 132 additional spaces will be available for graduate students at the new Worthington Place residence in Kendall Square. These spaces may be subsidized for incoming graduate students.
In previous years, about one-third of the freshman class lived in FSILGs. The Orientation Committee and the Interfraternity Council (IFC) predicted that only about 250 of the incoming class of 1,050 would make that choice this year, partly in response to the alcohol-related death of freshman Scott Krueger last fall at his fraternity house.
As in the past, all freshmen who request it will be housed in MIT residence halls. Some will be accommodated by "crowding," meaning a single room would be converted to a double, or a double to a triple. In previous years, this has occurred at most undergraduate houses. In extreme cases, lounges at MacGregor House have been converted to bedrooms.
In a letter to the families of MIT students dated April 30, President Charles M. Vest noted that a new dormitory should be open in three years, helping alleviate the campus housing crunch. "We are moving ahead as thoughtfully and deliberately as possible to make our student housing more responsive to the students' wishes for a stronger sense of community and to better integrate residential life into the larger educational mission of MIT," he wrote.
To help ease the burden of freshman housing selection, several changes in the orientation process have been adopted. These include devoting a block of time solely to residence options, conducting a midway at which information may be obtained and questions answered, and holding concurrent open houses across the residence system. In addition, the Guide to First-Year Student Residences will be mailed shortly, almost a full month earlier than in previous years.
"The idea is to get more information and better information out earlier to help them make as objective a choice as possible about where to live," said Professor Kip V. Hodges, dean for undergraduate curriculum.
Kai-yuh Hsiao, Dormitory Council rush chair who helped with the guide, feels the rush experience has a profound impact on a student's future at MIT. "Personally, I had a great time during rush my [freshman] year, and I actually don't think I would have done anything differently," said Mr. Hsiao, a junior who lives at East Campus. "Rush is a time of great opportunity. It's important to experience as much as possible during rush to get a decent feel for what life is like at MIT."
For the first time, the guides will include a response card on which the student may note the residences in which he or she is interested. Those residences will be the only ones permitted to contact that student before he or she arrives on campus.
If the return rate on the cards is low, Dean Hodges said, the Institute will sponsor a telephone campaign in June to contact students who have not filled out preference cards.
The guide includes charts that list the attributes, amenities, community profiles and cost of the 15 Institute houses on campus and 38 fraternities, sororities and independent living groups in Boston, Cambridge and Brookline. The selection process during Orientation begins on August 28.
Placing undergraduates in graduate housing to relieve a crunch is not unprecedented. In 1993, upperclass students lived in Westgate. In 1994-95 MIT students resided in a leased Massachusetts College of Art dormitory in Boston.
Upperclass students will be permitted to apply for Tang assignments in groups to maintain a sense of community in a new environment. Graduate resident tutors will be assigned to the residence, and a connection to Next House dining and shuttle service to campus are under consideration. Bicycle racks may also be installed.
Undergraduates are not expected to be placed in Tang again, although those who live there in 1998-99 may be permitted to remain another year.
Institute housing charges range from $3,190 a year at Random Hall to $3,832 at Burton-Conner, not including meals. The cost at fraternities and ILGs is $2,700 to $5,600 a year, which includes most if not all meals.
New students are urged not to base their housing decision on price. "Cost differences which may look large don't look so big if you view them on a monthly basis or in comparison to the overall costs of a year at college," the guide advises. The more expensive ILGs usually offer more extensive amenities, such as a house cook and/or a broader program of social activities, or may have been recently renovated. Tuition for 1998-99 will be $24,050.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 6, 1998.