7. Orientation and Residence Selection

7.1 Strengths and Needs

Overall, our residence system is a strength of the Institute. Of our peer institutions, the MIT residential experience is rated highest, according to the Spring 1996 Cycles Survey (86.8% satisfied). Compared to the average of the peer institutions, significantly more students are "very satisfied" with MIT's residential experience (52.30% vs. 34.3%). We are above average in inter-residence interaction, social life, and ranked third in campus community. [1]

We interpret the unusually high satisfaction levels reached by MIT's residence system to be a result of the large amount of housing choice and customization that the Institute allows its students. This interpretation seems justified, given MIT's extremely high ratings in his area despite providing less financial, programmatic, and logistical support for its residence system than peer institutions with much lower ratings. It is also supported by the perceptions and experience of the student body.

The Orientation 1998 survey indicates that 89 percent of student were satisfied with their choice of living group, up 2% from 1997 and 9% from 1994. In fact, 70% of students were "very satisified" with their choice of living group, up from 63% in 1997 and from 45% in 1994. In 1998, only 3% of students were "very dissatisfied" with their living group selection, down from 7% in 1997 and 12% in 1994. As Associate Dean Alberta Lipson points out in the Orientation Survey results, 1998's Orientation represented "a break from the past." Orientation had a significantly diminished focus on residence selection, while still allowing freshmen choice during Orientation. [2]

However, a non-negligible number of our students have a difficult, stressful time selecting a living group. Two-fifths of incoming freshmen in 1998 and one-third in 1997 indicated that the housing decision was difficult. One-eighth of the 1998 freshmen and one-fifth of the 1997 freshmen students felt that they had insufficient information to make a decision. One-fifth of the 1998 freshmen and one-third of the 1997 freshmen felt that they did not have sufficient time. Also, according to the 1998 Senior Survey, 21 percent of students had a negative attitude towards choosing a living group during the first week; 22 percent of students in the 1994 Senior Survey expressed a similar attitude. It is crucial that a new residence system address this 10-30% of students who did not have optimal residence selection experiences, while preserving the strengths of the system experienced by the remaining 70-90 percent. [3]

MIT's residence halls and affiliated FSILGs do provide a diversity of supportive living environments for undergraduates.In particular, as remarked by the Phase II report of the RSSC, "the FSILG system has been a leader at MIT in mentoring and advising freshmen." [4] A number of FSILG's currently provide more affordable housing and meal options than is possible in the residence halls.Perhaps due to their independence from the Institute, FSILGs also generally provide rich programmatic options for their residents, including educational and formal support programs. Despite minimal funding and support from the Institute, residence halls have demonstrated their own ability to run successful programming. The unique social and educational opportunities created by the Language and Cultural Houses is another strength of the current system which must be preserved.

All classes of residence have been outstanding in providing informal support networks to provide transitional, emotional, and intellectual support for the student body far above and beyond what the Institute itself has been able to give.

Two other notable strengths of the MIT residential system are the four year housing guarantee and the new and innovative Pre-Orientation programs.

We acknowledge that MIT's residences are not perfect. MIT has grossly underrecognized and undersupported the residence system for most of its history. This lack of Institute support has caused serious weaknesses, including poor facility maintenance, low faculty involvement in residential life, a shortage of graduate student housing, and unwarranted crowding in the residence halls.The key challenge of designing a residence system for 2001 and beyond is to carry the strengths of the current housing system -- notably its freedom, diversity, and strong peer support -- into the housing options that will be available to undergraduates in the future while addressing its serious weaknesses.

7.2 Approach to Orientation and Residence Selection Redesign

7.2.1 Stability and Predictability

Life in the MIT residence system should have a high degree of certainty and predictability. If students are unable to predict whether they will have housing in the future, they will need to waste time and energy making contingency arrangements. Stability is educationally desirable because it allows residential support and mentoring networks to form. Students also tend to invest more in their living groups if they feel a sense of at least semi-permanence and of being at "home."

A closely related goal is the preservation of the strong, supportive communities which exist in all of MIT's living groups.These communities underlie many of the most important strengths described in section 7.1. We have implemented these principles through a carefully considered residence selection process.

7.2.2 Informed Choice

The previously-cited orientation surveys show that some freshmen still have insufficient amounts of information when making housing choices. While a reduction of the number of options available to freshmen in 2001 may help to reduce the difficulty of gathering and providing enough information to freshmen, the problem will not be easily solved.

Anyone who listens to enough undergraduates recount their residence selection experiences will soon notice a very common and striking trend. Many students are fairly certain of their housing preferences after reading Institute-provided literature over the summer, but often change their minds as they see the actual buildings, and, more importantly, begin to meet the actual residents in person. This change is not surprising. For example, one would not move into an apartment (or buy a used car, or piece of equipment) "sight unseen."One also would not move into a living arrangement without meeting his or her neighbors.

MIT's living groups have distinct characters. Though no one place may be the "right place" for any given person, putting someone in a living environment where they do not feel that they belong undermines the objectives of home and community for that person. Consequently, we believe that "informed choice" must include the ability to meet the upperclassmen residents of a living group in person.

7.2.3 Diversity of Practice in Residence Halls

Through resident-driven programming and a set of unique cultural practices, residence halls, as cited above, do an excellent job of tailoring the MIT experience to the likes and needs of individual students. A system in which each dormitory was merely a microcosm of the larger MIT community would be unable to accomplish this goal as well.

As the experiences of thousands of undergraduates show, the real essence of living group character is transmitted in person.This fact is why we place such a strong emphasis on personal visitation as an element of truly informed choice. We also believe that the elimination of such personal interactions would mean the eventual homogenization of the dormitory system.[5]

Investment in a stable and unique community within each residence is an important factor for alumni satisfaction. MIT alumni are unusual in the frequency with which they return to their undergraduate living groups to tell stories, give advice, and enjoy the company of people who are identifiably part of the same community they themselves experienced.

We encourage diversity of practice through the protection of the diverse set of existing communities, and through a mechanism increase this diversity -- Theme Houses, introduced in section 7.5.

7.2.4 Encouraging Movement

While we strongly object to the view that FSILGs are primarily providers of beds rather than a rich collection of educational and living options, we do recognize that a large percentage of upperclassmen must join FSILGs to prevent unacceptable overcrowding of the residence halls, as our calculations in section 5.3 show. Considering the crucial support networks that form in living groups, especially during the freshman year, this could be a difficult task. Moreover, it should be easy for undergraduates to change residence halls, to deal with uncomfortable situations, to promote inter-community interaction, and to maintain balanced demographics.

This need may appear contrary to the principle of stability, and thus requires extremely careful attention. We believe we have managed this delicate balance by encouraging voluntary movement, while preserving the right to maintain one's housing status quo. We do this by giving FSILGs as much creative flexibility as possible to recruit new members (within guidelines to protect the educational and other interests of the greater MIT community) and by an innovative dormitory lottery system.

We believe that incentives are preferable to mandates when movement must be further encouraged. We encourage the proposed Student Life Council to create additional incentives if the need ever arises.

7.2.5 Diversity of Experience

While the Institute's various self-selecting residential communities may compose a diverse system, it is also important that the individual student experience that diversity firsthand. Students cannot have that experience if living groups exist as isolated social and cultural pockets. As the Task Force says, "the divisions among campus groups -- such as among living groups, or between graduates and undergraduates -- sometimes leads to intolerance and lack of understanding not in keeping with MIT's principle of diversity."[6]

Students also need to be a part of their own community to experience the diversity of social activity that happens there.[7]This belonging is part of the reason why a sense of "home" and some ability to relate to the other members of one's living group on a social level are beneficial.

Section 4 of our report, "Community Interaction and Student Support" recommends solutions to work in concert with the new residence selection system. Encouraging movement across the residence system also will increase cross-residential community.

7.3 Residence Hall and Room Selection for Freshmen

The committee recognizes the importance of having the residence selection process allow freshmen to choose their residence hall based on the culture and community that it offers, not just the physical characteristics of the building.We also recognize the importance of accommodating those freshmen that feel it is important to know one's residence before arrival on campus.We feel that a two phase selection process will satisfy both of these needs.

Phase 1.In Phase 1, incoming freshmen will select a residence hall based on materials received and reviewed early in the summer before arrival.Dormitories will provide freshmen with various media about the residence hall, along with contact information.This information will increase the ability of the freshmen to pick an housing environment where they would feel welcome and comfortable. The freshmen will submit a ranked list of residence halls and information about their preferences in a living environment and will be assigned a dormitory room and roommate(s) during the summer.

Dorms may specify in their literature that freshmen room assignments within the dorm may be permanent.Certain dormitories have cultures that are evenly distributed throughout the living space; it would be feasible for these halls to accept freshmen interested in permanent assignments upon arrival at the Institute.Other dormitories may >choose not to identify themselves this way, thereby allowing for internal rush to occur after the secondary lottery has occurred.

Phase 2. Phase 2 comprises residence hall selection activities, a secondary housing lottery, and internal dormitory rush.Following residence hall rush, freshmen will submit either a confirmation of their current residence choice, or a revised ranking of residence halls.Those revising their choices will be lotteried into available spaces in the residence halls of their choice.This secondary hall selection process is critical -- it enables freshmen to change their dormitory if their choice, based on limited information over the summer, is not what they expected.Internal rooming assignments would then be carried out by the individual residence halls in a manner approved by the SLC.The following flow chart illustrates the options available to freshmen.

A and B represent the options of choosing (via the summer lottery) to live in a dorm that allows permanent room choice based on Phase 1 information.In situation C, the student chooses to confirm their choice of both residence hall and room during the Orientation lottery.In D, the student confirms his/her room, but opts to enter the hallís internal lottery and get a new room.In option E, the student chooses to reenter the lottery for a new residence hall.This student will enter his/her new dormitory's internal rooming lottery and receive a permanent assignment.This situation is most similar to the current system.In situation F, the student chooses to confirm housing in his/her residence hall, and will then go through the internal room assignment of that dorm.The difference between F and D is that a student confirming a selection in F must go through the internal room assignment process, while a student confirming in D has chosen not to remain in their original room assignment.There are several variables in this process, allowing for a diversity not only in housing options, but in how one arrives at one's final choice.

Students will be allowed to staple together with other students that they feel they would like to room with permanently.This stapling can occur both at the residence hall selection level, where freshmen can choose other freshmen that they would like to live with, possibly as roommates; and at the internal level, where freshmen may actually choose who their roommate(s) is/are.

Up to four freshmen should be able to staple together during the hall selection lotteries. This number accommodates those freshmen who anticipate living together in higher-occupancy freshman rooms. We believe that groups larger than four should not be permitted, to prevent the creation of isolated groups within dormitories or be incompatible with internal rooming assignments.

Dormitory governments should have the authority to set stapling levels for internal lotteries.

Internal Rooming Selection. Following the secondary hall selection lottery, dormitories will do internal rooming assignments by a mechanism determined by the dormitory government and approved by the Student Life Council. The freshmen will have the opportunity to meet residents and examine rooms from all parts of the dormitory. Upperclassmen should be given the ability to positively select freshmen for internal divisions of a residence hall (e.g. the halls of East Campus or the entries of MacGregor) but not the ability to deny or "blacklist" a freshmen the ability to choose a particular internal division of a residence hall. Upperclassmen who share rooms or suites with freshmen must be given the ability to chose mutually acceptable living arrangements.

We believe that upperclassmen, because of their experience with and knowledge about the living groups within their dormitories, are able to positively contribute to the freshmen selection process, but we recognize that granting them power to deny freshmen a particular room is inappropriate. Giving upperclassmen the opportunity to preferentially attract freshmen with compatible personalities will improve the frequency and productivity of future informal interaction and close friendships. Upperclassmen should not have the ability to unkindly bounce a freshman somehow labeled as "undesirable" from place to place, nor should an exclusionary attitude dominate the beginning of the MIT experience. Any positive selection means should be confidential and only available to rooming chairs.

An example scenario: A dorm that has several distinct cultures/halls within it will be home to fifty freshmen.The freshmen explore the living group and start to form opinions of the different areas.Upperclassmen interact with these freshmen, discovering that the freshmen either show signs of fitting in, or signs of unhappiness with the culture.The upperclassmen may notice signs that indicate the freshmen would be particularly happy in another part of the dorm, and they tell the freshmen this, tell that other section this, or both. At the end of this selection period, the cultures/halls sit down and make lists of which freshmen they think would be happy on the hall (and that the hall would be happy with).If ten spaces are available on a hall, the lists may consist of anywhere from zero to fifty names, depending on how much the hall wants to exert an influence on their living arrangement and how many freshmen they liked.Freshmen will be assigned to halls based on their own rankings of the halls, with preference to halls that they ranked high and that ranked them high.If a hall cannot be filled with freshmen solely from its lists, freshmen that ranked that hall high will be placed there, regardless of whether they were on the hall's lists or not.Halls that have many freshmen they like are more likely to be filled with freshmen that they like and are comfortable with.

Summary. We believe that the proposed residence selection system will help eliminate roommate, floormate, and housemate "horror stories" from the MIT experience, by allowing freshmen and upperclassmen to make mutually compatible living arrangements in a informative, low-pressure, and informal social environment.The proposed system removes much of the pace and pressure of orientation while enabling a degree of the self-selection which has produced the current vibrant communities in residence halls.

7.4 Orientation

"The central purpose of orientation should be to create the feeling of joining a single, campus-wide community. To do this, there should be more activities that involve faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students in shared experiences.Orientation events must be more than pro forma exercises to be endured. If each orientation experience has a constructive purpose, students could be expected to take them seriously."
-- From the Report of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning [8]

We believe that any evaluation of Orientation should include both the subjective judgments of freshmen, as has been the case in past Orientation Surveys, but also specific questions for freshmen about specific goals being attained during Orientation. From the Task Force's recommendation and our own experience and wisdom we suggest freshmen should be able to do the following by the end of Orientation:

To achieve these goals, we believe the following events need occur:

Pre-Orientation programs should continue to be supported and developed. The goals should be to accommodate all freshmen who wish to take part in a Pre-Orientation program and to raise freshmen interest to near 100%. In order to provide equal access, freshmen should not be required to pay additional fees to participate in Pre-Orientation programs.Corporate sponsorship, such as that obtained for the inaugural Freshman Outdoors Program, may be beneficial. These programs should provide experiences not typically available during the term and enable freshmen to get to know each other and other members of the MIT community.

One possible Orientation schedule is presented below. It is not meant to be an actual schedule, simply an attempt to show how the above events might be put into a real schedule.
Sample Orientation Schedule
Day Morning/Afternoon Evening
Saturday Freshmen arrive for Pre-Orientation programs. Parents' Orientation occurs.
Sunday Pre-Orientation begins. Parents Orientation continues.
Monday-Wednesday Pre-Orientation.
Thursday Presidents Convocation. Freshmen meet Orientation Groups. Faculty Welcome Dinner.
Friday Academic Expo. Core Blitz. Meetings with Advisors. Residence Midway
Saturday Athletics Gateway. Activities Midway. Carnival begins.
Sunday Carnival. The Carnival is intended as an evening and day of fun for freshmen and will take place primarily on Briggs Field. Events may be run by residence halls, student groups, academic departments, FSILGs, or staff, and should be integrated with GSC Orientation if possible. The Student Life Council should set minimal guidelines for such events. Residence hall open houses/social events.
Monday Introduction to MIT's research agenda (with graduate students). Introduction to UROP. Freshmen Lab Explorations. Residence hall open houses/social events.
Tuesday Meetings with Advisors. Introduction to Alternative Freshmen Programs. Residence hall lottery preferences due by 5pm.
Wednesday Meetings with Advisors. Explorations in Boston with Orientation Groups and graduate students. Residence hall lottery results out by 5pm. Dormitory meetings and internal tours in the evening.
Thursday Move into rooms. Pre-registration due. Open time with residence hall.
Friday Community service event with graduate students, staff and faculty; Picnic with Wellesley/BU/BC. Open time.
Saturday-Monday Open social time, including student groups and FSILGs.
Tuesday Registration Day.
Wednesday First Day of Classes.

7.5 Theme Houses

Small, close-knit communities, such as the existing Language and Cultural Houses, FSILGs, and certain dormitory floors, entries, or other subdivisions can provide especially suitable environments for fostering a family-like atmosphere and sense of belonging. Undertaking communal responsibilities such as meal preparation, facility maintenance, self-government, and new member integration provides students with special opportunities for self-development. Living groups centered around a particular culture, a particular lifestyle, or particular activities have the potential to considerably enhance the MIT educational experience.

Consequently, the Comittee proposes the creation of a new, diverse set of living group options to be known as "Theme Houses." Existing Language and Cultural Houses should be integrated into this system. Residence halls and subdivisions thereof may apply to the Student Life Council for Theme House status. FSILGs may also apply, but may be required to make significant and fundamental changes in order to be integrated into the MIT residence hall system.

The formation of theme houses should be student and community driven.† Each Theme House:

  1. Must promote a theme of common interest that is compatible with and actively furthers the educational mission of MIT.

  2. Must not duplicate the function of existing living group options, unless enough interest exists for both the new and old groups to co-exist harmoniously.

  3. Must satisfy the SLC that the theme would not be as educationally beneficial if pursued as a student activity, or through other non-residential means.

  4. Must provide a plan satisfactory to SLC for the adequate supervision and safety of its members.

  5. Should participate in cross-residential programs and/or hold events which invite non-members to participate in the house's theme.

  6. May choose to invite non-students, such as faculty, visiting scholars, and other members of the MIT and intellectual communities, as appropriate, to become guests, members, or otherwise affiliate themselves with the house.

  7. Should provide the same opportunities for residence-driven programming (especially for incoming students and other new members) as would be available in a non-Theme House residence hall.

The details of ownership, programming, supervision, etc., should at some appropriate point before Fall, 2001, be collectively negotiated between all parties interested in obtaining Theme House status, and the SLC and/or ODSUE. The SLC shall establish clear policies and explicit language against which to judge all Theme House applications. This negotiation does not preclude the creation of theme houses after 2001, though we expect the 2001 guidelines to apply to future applicants.

Theme Houses must maintain character through some sort of selection process. The Theme House should have the opportunity to fill all vacancies within their assigned areas in either one of the following manners, or they may use a combination of the two. The first method consists of recruiting Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors at the end of a Spring Term to live in the House in question starting at the beginning of the following Fall Semester. The second method consists of requiring all future freshmen to sign a commitment, approved by the Student Life Council, that says they will be willing to do the House duties that are required of them for membership. If the commitment is violated (as in the house member in question refuses to complete the work required of him), then an administrative channel will exist which will allow the house to have the member moved out of the house and replaced with a person who has their approval.

7.6 Member Recruitment and Selection for Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups

As was discussed in the Needs and Strengths section, Fraternities, Sororities and Independent Living Groups fill a valuable niche in MIT's educational mission, provide critical support to students, are a cost effective housing option for undergraduate students, and provide co- and extra-curricular opportunities not available in residence halls. The Institute should make every effort to encourage freshmen to consider their upperclass housing options and to facilitate and support that process.

The Interfraternity Council, in conjunction with the Residential Life Office and the Student Life Council, will set guidelines for the new member recruitment and selection process. The IFC has demonstrated the ability to run recruitment fairly and to hold its member organizations accountable to its recruitment rules.As recruitment will fundamentally change in the fall of 2001, the IFC will need to reevaluate its rules to continue to provide a safe and positive experience for rushees and a level playing field for its member organizations.In acknowledgement of the independent nature of these living groups, and to maximize the effectiveness of FSILG recruitment, self-determination should be preserved in the recruitment process as much as possible. New member recruitment should be managed cooperatively between the IFC and FSILGs, the Student Life Council, and ODSUE.

The Institute should mandate that the IFC will not run recruitment activities that compete with established Orientation activities, though Orientation should contain an introduction to the FSILG system.Notably, FSILG's should participate in Orientation's Residence Midway (see section 7.4). The administration should work closely with the IFC to ensure periods of recruitment that fit well into the MIT calendar and are as free of academic pressure as possible given the time(s) of the year.

The IFC, in cooperation with the Residential Life Office, currently is redefining what the purposes and standards of new member recruitment will be in the post-2001 environment.Until this process is completed -- and recruitment is defined -- it is premature to attempt to define dates for recruitment. Consequently, the committee makes no particular recommendations concerning the timing of recruitment activities.We do, however, recommend that recruitment activities not conflict with orientation or periods of great academic stress (i.e.end of term).We also suggest that future recruitment activities take be informal and low-pressure events that take advantage of the lengthened residence selection schedule, and that these events not be limited to a single brief period.

7.6 Fall and Spring Dormitory Lotteries for Upperclassmen

A dormitory lottery will be held in November of the fall term for housing in the following spring term and March of the spring term for the following fall term. These lotteries will be mandatory for all MIT undergraduates currently living in residence halls. They will be extensions of the current housing confirmation process. Students will have the option to either confirm their current residence choice, or enter a lottery to move amongst available spots in other residence halls.

It is important that the lottery algorithm be well-designed and well-tested. The algorithm should be developed with support from faculty familiar with such "assignment problems," such as faculty in the Labratory for Computer Science or the Operations Research Center. Further, for the past several years, the lottery algorithm has been rewritten by a separate person every year; this lack of continuity has led to assignment problems in some cases. Unless there is a pressing reason for changing the algorithm, it should remain the same from year to year.

Our stapling policy is based on two principles: freshmen should be able to choose their roommmates, and upperclassmen should be able to choose their social groups. Consequently, stapling will be more flexible for upperclass lotteries than for the freshmen lotteries. More than four upperclassmen may staple together, with dormitory governments determining the maximum group size they are willing to receive.

This system lowers the barriers to change residence halls, making it much easier for students to experience more than one living environment, should they choose to do so. As the RSSC notes, the current system can perpetuate the idea that each student has only one place where they could find a home. Institutionalizing and socializing the idea of residence flexibility will encourage cross-community interaction because students are likely to visit their friends in former residence halls and in residences they are considering for the future.

We believe that producing systemic instability by removing the ability of freshmen to stay in their freshmen year residence hall is incompatible with our goals of "house, home and community" by forcing people out of their home, their support structure.We understand that this system could cause the evolution of dormitories with disparate ratios of freshmen to upperclassmen, if living group demographic balancing does not happen on it own. Similarly, we understand that there may be scenarios in which large numbers of upperclassmen try to leave a few houses, unbalancing the system. We have no evidence to believe that this would happen, but should this be the case, the Student Life Council should interfere.The most effective strategy for the SLC is likely a system of economic incentives. Further, a large number of residents trying to leave a house is almost always an indicator that the house is suffering from severe maintenance or social problems. This should be a sign for MIT to investigate problems at the house, and provide help to solve them (either maintenance or counseling support). Treating the underlying problems should effectively address mass departures. A blanket removal of squatting rights should be avoided.

We have also considered the argument that allowing freshmen to remain in their freshmen dormitories may decrease the incentive to consider Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups. We do not disagree with this argument, but we believe that the effects of squatting on new member recruitment will be minimal and, more importantly, that the costs of eliminating squatting are too high.

7.7 Housing Guarantee

Housing must be guaranteed for four years to all undergraduates. The current guarantee of contiguous housing for students is a valued part of the recruitment process of MIT and an important part of the educational value of the residence system. The pace and pressure of the academic rigors of the Institute are widely acknowledged, and the housing guarantee removes a potential source of significant stress.Consequently, this guarantee should extend to transfer students and students who have taken time away from MIT for personal, medical, or other reasons. Students who transfer into residence halls from FSILGs should receive equal status with a dormitory-system native. The fall and spring lotteries described in Section 7.6, and construction of the "Flex Dormitory" discussed in Section 5, should greatly facilitate this flexibility.

Weakening or eliminating this guarantee would cause substantial difficulties for the student body.Undergraduates have limited financial resources with which to afford off-campus accommodations and have limited amounts of time in which to search for housing.The natural stress of searching for housing would be compounded by the Cambridge rental market.With the elimination of rent control and the effects of general demographic trends in the Cambridge area, affordable housing is at a premium, with the market at approximately 98%+ saturation. Cambridge residents are concerned about the prospect of MIT students (and those of other area colleges and universities) flooding the system. Students, on the other hand, are disconcerted by the prospect of finding acceptable and affordable housing in such a constrained environment.

In addition to the regular, four-year guarantee of housing, Masters of Engineering and other five-year academic programs represent a serious unaddressed problem in the residence system. Little investigation has gone into determining the impact of these programs and the housing needs of fifth-year students. The problem will only get worse as more and more departments consider adding these programs.This situation only underscores the need for an additional "flex dorm" (see Section 5); the Student Life Council should conduct an in-depth investigation into this matter.

The committee recognizes that in the short term, the evolution of the FSILG system may also result in more undergraduates needing Institute housing. Though this effect may be temporary, as FSILGs learn to recruit in a radically new environment, the problem must still be addressed in the short term. We recommend the following prioritized solution:

  1. Provide incentives for students to move into residences that are underutilized.

  2. Crowd existing dormitory space and spread such crowding as evenly as possible between residence halls. Such crowding should be done on a voluntary basis, with the Institute providing lower rents for students choosing to live in crowded rooms.

  3. Rent non-residence hall space for undergraduates, either on a per-room basis or entire buildings.

  4. Utilize graduate student housing for undergraduates, and provide non-residence hall housing for graduate students. MIT should subsidize such housing so that the price would be equal to that of in-system rents.Such housing would be in the form of a "temporary residence hall" (i.e. an entire apartment building), that would be safe, well-maintained, and allow for convenient access to MIT.

Under no circumstances do we recommend the following:

  1. Utilize graduate student housing for undergraduates and displace graduate students into the Boston area housing market.

  2. Deny housing to undergraduates.

References

  1. Committee on the Financing of Higher Education. 1996 Spring Cycles Survey.
  2. MIT Educational Studies Working Group. 1998 Orientation Survey.
  3. MIT Educational Studies Working Group. 1994 and 1998 Senior Survey Reports, and the 1997 and 1998 Freshman Survey Reports.
  4. Phase II Status Report of the Residence System Steering Committee. May, 1998. Section 3.3.
  5. Cambridge University's college system shows this happening in practice. Students applying there chose their college based on printed literature, and perhaps a pre-admission visit. (Students actually apply for admission to a particular college, rather than a university.) Those of us who visited Cambridge found that students become very attached to their respective colleges. We also found because of their large size and weak ability to self-select members, the colleges were more alike than different. The actual culture one experiences in a given college at Cambridge varies drastically from year to year as an entirely new batch of students arrives every three years. This, despite the fact that the unique physical environment and often centuries-old formal traditions of the organization change much more slowly. We note that Cambridge University, despite its fairly homogeneous residence system, achieves outstanding levels of student satisfaction and academic performance. However, it does so with a nearly one-on-one tutoring and advising system that in effect creates a custom programming experience for each student, something which is unfortunately currently infeasible at MIT. For more information, see "A Creative Tension: The report of the Dorm Design Team to the Residence System Steering Committee on the Cambridge college system and its American analogues." April 26, 1999. Available at: http://web.mit.edu/residence/systemdesign/cambridge1.html.
  6. Final Report of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning. September, 1998. Section 4.3.3
  7. Task Force, Section 4.2.3
  8. Task Force, Section 4.5.4