The Residence System Steering Committee unveiled a plan on April 27 that calls for converting Ashdown House to a freshman hall, creating an undergraduate resident advisor system and postponing rush until the beginning of the spring semester.
The preliminary plan, introduced at an open meeting attended by about 100 students, faculty, alumni/ae and staff in Rm 6-120, provides the framework for a series of discussions that will lead to a final proposal to be submitted in September. The meeting, moderated by Executive Vice President William J. Hecht, chair of the committee, included some brisk exchanges with the audience.
Mr. Hecht reminded the audience that the Task Force on Student Life and Learning report acknowledged the importance of community in education at MIT and called for an integration of roles played by academics, research and community. The Steering Committee proposals were introduced to seek community-wide feedback about the implementation of the residence section of the Task Force report.
The Steering Committee, aware of problems created for fraternities, sororities and independent living groups (FSILGs) by the mandate to house all freshmen on campus in 2001, called for the vacancies created by this mandate to be offered to graduate students. The plan recommends that "FSILGs will negotiate with MIT to determine the fee... MIT will make up the difference between that fee and the flat amount charged by MIT to the graduate student." FSILG participation in this program would be voluntary and living groups would retain control of who lives in their residences.
With an eye toward making space close to campus available for FSILGs in the future, the plan suggests that FSILGs re-evaluate membership size and consider sharing quarters. While there is no target date for this to happen, the plan calls for a "mechanism [that] will feature cooperation between an FSILG and MIT in selling the existing house and in creating new housing in the new location."
The committee said it reached "only limited consensus" on the decision to hold rush at the end of IAP or the beginning of the spring semester starting in 2001. The Interfraternity Council (IFC) has drafted a plan that would keep rush in August and house pledges in a bloc at a residence hall during their freshman year. The IFC plan also suggests that freshmen be permitted to move to fraternities for the spring semester.
Sixty percent of the beds at the freshman hall at Ashdown would house freshmen, according to the proposal, with the others occupied by upperclass students serving as mentors (including resident advisors), housemasters and their families, and graduate resident tutors.
Ashdown, currently a graduate student residence, has a capacity of 420. The plan suggests that freshmen assigned to other residence halls be placed in clusters, with one upperclass resident advisor for every 10 freshmen.
The upperclass resident advisors would be assigned by the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education (ODSUE). They would receive a stipend and be trained to conduct programs on vital issues such as time management, selection of major, career planning, leadership, health, communication, self-awareness and diversity training. They would work with the graduate resident tutors as part of a team led by the housemasters.
The committee noted that increased movement after the freshman year would take place after 2001 and suggested a "sophomore shuffle," commencing in March of the freshman year. Under this plan, freshmen who wish to remain in a residence hall the following semester would enter a lottery, with clusters of four permitted.
The committee also encouraged residence halls to develop an "entrepreneurial spirit" and invited them to consider establishing themes designed to attract students with similar interests.
A suggested strategy would have a residence hall develop a relationship with a faculty member, who in turn would present a subject at the house. "The relationship formed between faculty member and students in this House Professor offering could facilitate natural and lasting interactions," the plan says.
To replace the housing lost for graduate students at Ashdown, the plan suggests that MacGregor Hall's 326 beds, mostly in single rooms, be used to house them. The committee also urged that the erection of a graduate residence hall be given high priority.
Besides Mr. Hecht (SB 1961), head of the MIT Association of Alumni/ae, the Steering Committee includes four students, an associate dean, three members of the faculty and two alumni/ae. Process manager for the committee is Kirk D. Kolenbrander, an associate dean in ODSUE.
The complete plan and a schedule of open feedback meetings are available on line.
A version of this article appeared in the May 5, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 29).