Incorporating ideas from the Residence System Steering Committee, the Interfraternity and Dormitory Councils, and his own Strategic Advisory Council, Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow unveiled MIT's plan for a new residence system last week.
Chancellor Bacow also conferred with numerous students, faculty, parents and staff over an 11-month period before drafting "The Design of the New Residence System." In addition, he drew upon his own experiences and observations as a student member of Zeta Beta Tau, house trustee, freshman advisor, senior officer and parent of a current MIT student.
"My son has had a wonderful experience in his living group," said Chancellor Bacow, presenting the plan to a standing-room audience of about 300 in Rm 2-270 last Thursday evening (December 9). "He has lobbied me more heavily than anyone else. He has special access."
Copies of the plan were placed in Lobby 7 and other key areas on campus the day before Chancellor Bacow met with the community to discuss the plan. The Tech printed a four-page special edition devoted to it on Thursday.
The residence system will be implemented in 2001 upon the opening of a new 350-bed residence hall. Under the plan, MIT will continue to guarantee four years of housing to undergraduate students who want it. "The new system... tries to preserve the best elements of our current system, while also addressing some of its fundamental and persistent weaknesses," Chancellor Bacow said.
Key elements include the following:
- Freshmen will express summer lottery preferences based on information they receive on residence options after admission. They may request a permanent assignment at that time. Upon arrival on campus, they may choose to remain in the room assigned for the entire freshman year, or they may express a new set of preferences based on exploration of the system and enter the orientation lottery.
- Regular fall and spring housing lotteries will be held for upperclass students. Students may remain where they are by declining to enter these lotteries.
- Theme houses should explicitly state expectations for members of their community. Students assigned to theme houses will have to agree to abide by the rules of the house.
- Fraternities, sororities and independent living groups (FSILGs) will hold a midway during orientation but may not recruit members until the first weekend in October. Fall recruitment will end on October 31. A spring recruitment campaign will also be planned. Freshmen must live in residence halls for the entire year starting in 2001. Final details of the plan for rush will be worked out collaboratively with the IFC.
- FSILGs may rent empty beds to both male and female graduate students, who will be reimbursed for 80 percent of the fixed cost of the bed from MIT. A five-year sliding scale of reimbursement for empty beds to FSILGs will be established. Supplemental support will be provided for fraternities that wish to go coed.
- The feasibility of relocating FSILGs closer to campus will be explored. Chancellor Bacow told the meeting that 8-10 fraternities had already expressed interest in this possibility.
- The need for additional housing for graduate students will be addressed.
- Chairs will be established for housemasters and the amount devoted to the Independent Residence Development Fund will be increased.
- Associate Dean Kirk D. Kolen-brander, appointed interim Special Assistant to the Chancellor for the Residence System, will coordinate implementation of the system.
During a brief question-and-answer period, a student asked whether the new residence hall would open on time. Chancellor Bacow deferred to Director of Project Development Stephen P. Immerman, who said MIT was within "striking distance" of meeting the deadline, depending upon variable factors such as the weather. Ground has not been broken yet for the project. When pressed on what the Institute would do if the new residence hall was not ready by the fall of 2001, Chancellor Bacow said contigency options were being explored.
Another student wondered whether MIT fraternities were doomed to become social clubs as they had at universities which banned them, including Harvard. "The simple answer is that MIT students are better than that," Chancellor Bacow said.
Noting that 87 percent of undergraduate respondents to a 1996 survey were satisfied with their residential experience, a student asked Chancellor Bacow whether he anticipated similar satisfaction with the new plan 10 years hence.
"We've got a real good shot," he replied. "I'll bet you $1," the student retorted. The chancellor quickly accepted the bet.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 15, 1999.