MIT Presidential Task Force
on Student Life and Learning

Final Report of the
MIT Advisory Group on Orientation and Residence

Dec. 5, 1997

Residence Selection

Guiding Principles For Improving Residence Selection

  1. Primary focus on the best interests of the incoming students rather than the interests of the living groups.
  2. Early, objective and accessible residence information.
  3. Equitable and diverse housing choices for all students.
  4. Better informed and less stressed students and parents.
  5. High standards of conduct and responsibility in living groups.
  6. A better informed faculty and staff, with better connections to the residences.
  7. More opportunities for students to explore the residence system before rush, coupled with a reduction in hype and intensity during rush.

Suggestions For Improving Residence Selection

  1. Restrict unsolicited summer mailings and telephone calls to freshmen.
  2. Prepare a comprehensive guide to residences, with contributions from the Deans office and from all living groups. Create a positive competitive environment for living groups in which houses seek to become more attractive to students and parents by having better supervision and objective measures of performance such as those suggested below.
    The following ideas have been endorsed by the IFC Presidents' Council.

    Each living group's entry in the Guide will include four components:

    (a) Fact sheet including house GPA, majors represented, cost/year, meals provided, length of pledge period, hours per week commitment, police incidents within the last 3 years (one-line summaries), faculty advisor & graduate resident tutor, awards received (MIT or national organization awards), etc.
    (b) Objective entry written by RCA covering a house's surveyable qualities including, but not limited to, participation in varsity/intramural athletics, campus organization officers, extracurricular activities represented, etc.
    (c) Subjective entry submitted by the FSILG recruitment chairman.
    (d) FSILG members' parent contact information (name & phone number).

  3. Provide visitation opportunities to living groups during the pre-frosh spring. Include opportunities to stay over night, as is currently the practice for pre-frosh weekend.
  4. Put residence information on the web and give incoming freshmen athena accounts as soon as possible.
  5. Lengthen the time for residence selection and have dorm visitation occur simultaneously with FSILG exploration.
  6. Greater participation by dorms in rush activities.
  7. Reduce the incidence of rejection, such as caused by the practices of hard flushing and anti-rush. Anti-rush includes practices in dormitories which are intended to discourage freshmen from selecting a particular dorm. The intention is to preserve a particular dorm "culture" or to reduce the probability of crowding.

    The IFC Report has made suggestions for eliminating hard flushing, which are quoted below.

    "Eliminate hard flushing. IFC has taken significant measures over the years to ensure that individual FSILG's treat each freshman with respect. Toward that end the IFC has implemented many initiatives to curb the mostly archaic practice of 'flushing.' These initiatives include the drafting of an IFC Policy on Referrals, the yearly compilation of a Referrals Guide, and mandating that every FSILG retain a Referral Chair during Rush whose sole responsibility is to match freshmen up with more compatible houses. To continue to ensure that 'flushing' practices are effectively removed from our system, a post-residence selection survey should be administered to all freshmen (within their advising seminars) that specifically prompts for (1) the name of the house which practiced questionable treatment of a freshman and (2) a detailed description of the incident."
  8. Hold residence selection workshops. The IFC Report provides some useful detail, including:
    A Comprehensive Residence Selection Primer

    This workshop, hosted by RCA, will take place before the start of residence selection each fall. Its purpose will be four-fold:

    (1) Explain the residence selection system, the schedule, the bid process, and key questions to ask members of a living group.
    (2) Review IFC and DormCon residence selection rules (i.e.Clearinghouse, no badmouthing, etc.) and how they help freshmen make informed decisions.
    (3) Inform freshmen of the resources (e.g., Rush Central, JudCom, RhoChis, etc.) available during residence selection so they know where to direct their questions, and how to report complaints.
    (4) Inform freshmen of the options they have available to them after residence selection if they are unhappy with their choice (e.g., roommate problems, hazing complaints, etc.)

  9. Hold a Residence Midway, similar to the Activities Midway and including all FSILG's and dormitory living groups.
    Quoting from the IFC Report,"The Residence Midway will take place at a specified time before the start of residence selection. Each living group would maintain a booth where a freshmen could approach and talk with members of the living group or request printed information. All upperclassmen-freshmen contact at this event would be initiated by the freshmen. The event would help freshmen (especially those who did not benefit from Summer Rush) get a feel for the various houses in a non-"hectic" environment."
  10. Periodic review of "Institute approved housing" status for all living groups, including dorms. The intention here is to put teeth into standards for all living groups. A possible sanction would be loss of such status for the following year. The construction of more on campus housing would provide more options for the administration to act.
  11. Devise a messaging system so parents can maintain contact with sons or daughters during orientation: e.g. voice mail, pagers and email.
  12. Combine and expand the functions of R/O Central and Rush Central.
  13. Create more single sex housing opportunities for women. These options could be in the form of more co-ed living groups, all-female living groups and dormitories, and residential sororities.

Building Trust In A Period Of Experimentation

We have an opportunity to begin a period of experimentation, assessment and change in our orientation and housing practices. Success will require that students, staff, alumni, and faculty work toward common goals. Students will bear much responsibility for fulfilling expectations for change in the residence selection system. They must also support the efforts of the faculty and staff to put new orientation programming in place.

The Faculty and Administration will carry much of the burden with respect to developing and following through on new initiatives in the orientation of students to MIT. However, the faculty must also become familiar with the residence system from firsthand experience in order for their attempts to change it to be credible.

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