The Unified Proposal for an MIT Residence System is a comprehensive and systemic design. We believe it addresses the interests and concerns of all relevant stakeholders: future MIT students, the parents of undergraduates, Fraternities, Sororities, Independent Living Groups, Theme Houses, Residence Halls, graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
The Strategic Advisory Committee to the Chancellor and the united student governments of MIT: the Undergraduate Association, the Dormitory Council, the Interfraternity Council, and the Graduate Student Council composed and submit this proposal to Lawrence Bacow, the Chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We recommend that the Chancellor adopt this proposal as the blueprint for the future of MIT's residence system. Moreover, we believe this proposal demonstrates that students can be involved in all levels of planning related to student life issues, and can reconcile diverse interests through integrative design and negotiation.
The Strategic Advisory Committee to the Chancellor (SAC) was created by the Chancellor in Fall 1998 as a continuation of the Student Advisory Group to the Task Force on Student Life and Learning. The purpose of the SAC is to provide student views and proposals to the Chancellor on an Institute-wide scope. The residence system is a natural area of concern for the committee, both because of its importance to the students of MIT and because the Chancellor will be making important decisions regarding its future.
The student governments have paid close attention to the future of the residence system since the announcement by President Charles M. Vest in Fall 1998 that all freshmen would be required to live in residence halls in Fall 2001. The Residence System Steering Committee (RSSC) was charged by the Chancellor to design and submit a proposal for the residence system and will do so in October 1999. The membership of the RSSC was drawn from the undergraduates, faculty, alumni, and staff of MIT. We applaud the Chancellor's commitment to community based decision making and the countless hours of work the members of the RSSC devoted to creating their final proposal.
When the RSSC released a first draft of their proposal in April 1999, the student governments produced the Unified Student Response to the Phase II Status Report (USR). The USR included a section on the key values for the MIT residence system and responded to a number of the recommendations of the RSSC, but was not a comprehensive proposal for the residence system. The Final Report of the Residence System Steering Committee, released in September 1999, was significantly different from the Phase II Status Report, and some of the changes made to the Final Report were recommended by the USR.
Following the release of the RSSC's Final Report, the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor and the student governments (especially those students who had worked on the USR) jointly met, and decided to sponsor a community-based process to develop a substitute proposal for a residence system. Our motivations for doing so were as follows:
We believe that our experience, expertise, and perspective, enhanced by the work of the Clay Committee, the Task Force on Student Life and Learning, the Lewis Commission, the office of Residence Life and Student Life Programming, and the Residence System Steering Committee could produce an excellent system and we believe we have done so.
The Unified Proposal for an MIT Residence System was announced to the public on September 14, 1999. The committee actively advertised its efforts to the community at large through both paper and electronic publicity campaigns, and was featured prominently in campus media.
Unique among similar efforts to date, the process used by the committee has been completely open and public - notes from all meetings were posted on the web for public perusal and comment. We have received invaluable contributions to the content of the report as a result of the process's transparency.
The text of the report was written primarily by student members of the committee. However, we solicited and received comments from faculty, staff, and alumni, and these comments have been signficant recommendations to this report.
In developing the report, we used as our basis those documents identififed by the Institute as providing overall guidelines for the residence system. These reports include, but were not limited to, the report of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning, the Institute Dining Review, Principles for an MIT Residential System ("Clay Committee"), the Phase II Status Report and the Final Report of the RSSC, and the various proposals submitted to the RSSC as part of the January 1999 Residence System Design Contest.
The committee would have preferred to begin designing the residence system by a community-based needs analysis, followed by several iterations of community feedback, proposals, and amendments. Unfortunately, we were unable to do so due to time restrictions. Nonetheless, we are confident that the proposal is based upon the needs of the community. In addition to using the reports listed above, many project members attended RSSC community sessions, and had detailed notes of those sessions. Consequently, we have been able to use the RSSC's community input as a (limited) facsimile for our own input. The project group has been open to the community, and involves many who have been most involved with residence system issues, including several student government presidents. Further, the transparency of the process has allowed the committee to receive vital input as the proposal has been developed.
Through this process, we now sense a growing consensus among the MIT community of what the new residence system should be. Perhaps because of this common direction, we found it relatively easy to integrate the several separate sections drafted by internal task forces. We are encouraged that, to date, community members have responded to our calls for review and feedback by providing positive comments on our effort, and providing recommendations that have helped us build a better system. As a result, this document represents the consensus of all members of the Strategic Advisory Committee to the Chancellor.
The committee hoped to have the ability to design what would be a globally-optimal residence system. Unfortunately, we are limited from doing so by the rigid constraint that freshmen not be allowed to live in independent living groups.
It may well be that the optimal residence system does feature freshmen living only in residence halls. However, we cannot make that statement for certain, because we did not consider any options that had freshmen living in ILGs.
The committee recognizes that this report is heavily dominated by undergraduate housing issues. As much as possible, we have tried to include graduate housing issues as referenced in existing material. Many of the community involvement programs discussed in Section 4 apply to graduate students just as they do to undergraduate students. Further, in Section 3, Capital Expenditures, we call for the construction of two new graduate residence halls.
Nonetheless, graduate housing still must be explored in depth. We recommend that a separate commmunity-based process expand this proposal to truly include the needs of graduate students. This process must include a detailed needs assessment; to date such an assessment has not been done. In general, information on graduate student housing needs is much sparser than information on undergraduate needs.
Despite this recommendation, we are adamant that the estimated $100 million for graduate student housing called for in Section 3 be done on schedule. As discussed in Section 3, the need for new graduate student housing is clear and pressing.