Residential Systems
Implementation Team

Report of the SubCommittee on
Freshman Residence Orientation and Selection of Housing (FROSH)

Friday November 9, 2001

This report is divded into three main sections, comprising the work of the Freshman Residence Orientation and Selection of Housing SuperSubCommittees: Residence Orientation, Publications, and Assignments. Questions concerning these reports should be directed as follows...

Sub Committee on Freshman Residence Orientation and Selection of Housing, Chair — Denise Vallay
Residence Orientation Super Sub Committee, Chair — Katie O'Dair
Publications Super Sub Committee, Chair — Rick Gresh
Assignments Super Sub Committee, Chair — Denise Vallay


Residence Orientation

Committee Members | Purpose | Events

Committee Members and contact information

Katie O'Dair, Chair —
Matt Cain —
Grace Kessenich —
Howie Kleinwaks —
Ellen Essigmann —
Jonathan Hartofilis —


To determine what events will happen on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights of Residence Orientation. This is in response to the agreement that was reached on September 21. Other events such as Housemaster specific events can be included in this conversation.


Monday night

The "agreement" said: revamped, low-key residence midway after welcome dinner

The content of the event will include:
  1. Participation by both IFC and dorms [We plan to talk to Panhel about their involvement]
  2. "Freshmen-driven" - allow frosh to ask questions in a low key setting
  3. A designated space for each living group
  4. A pre-determined fixed number for each group
  5. Access control will be addressed
  6. A detailed plan of what happens where, when, what the rules are
  7. IFC Judcom and Dormcon will together work on details
  8. Ideal location would be Sala and Lobdell
Timeline: December '01

Notes: Katie will ask Liz about space in Lobdell and Sala. A "plan" for how the event will be run will be developed by IFC and Dormcon.

Tuesday night

The "agreement" said: promote meaningful upperclassmen/freshmen interaction
  1. On Tuesday night dormitories will host events that will be open to all freshmen. These events should showcase the culture of the dorms and give an idea of what life in them is like. This can take whatever form the individual dorms feel is appropriate. Suggested events would include dinner, house tours, and a chance to talk with current residents. Beyond the very basics, creativity is encouraged.
  2. Social/Informational events by IFC in central campus area. Maybe a panel discussion focused on IFC issues, social event as well. [We plan to talk to Panhel about their involvement]
Timeline: Spring of 2002 into the summer

Wednesday night

The "agreement" said:
"Welcome to $dorm (the dorm your are currently living in)"
  • aimed at current residents (freshmen and upperclassmen) but open to everyone
  • should include Housemasters, GRT's, house government, etc.
The content of the night will include:

Wednesday nights activities should be aimed less at attracting people to individual dorms, but more toward helping freshmen figure out how they might rank their top three or so choices. For many students this evening may well serve as a final confirmation that their summer selection was the correct one. As with Tuesday, individual dorms are free to design their own activities, but events that include GRTs, Housemasters, and Housefellows are especially encouraged.

Timeline: Spring 2002

Publications (Look and Feel)

Committee Members | Procedures | Questions to answer by 11/15

Committee Members and contact information

Rick Gresh, Chair —
Denise Vallay —
Matt Cain —
Vikash Gilja —
Kelly Zimmerman —
Max Planck —
Morgan Sondregger —
Stephanie Guerreri —


There will be a number of ways that freshmen will receive information over the summer. The first round of contact will be from the dormitories and the second will be from the FSILGs.

In the dormitory mailing there will be a book and a CD-ROM. Both of which will have content that conveys basic information (occupancy, facilities, cost, etc.) and content that tries to highlight and differentiate the cultures of the dorms. The former content will be generated by Denise Vallay. (The Look and Feel group will be putting together a list of 20 or so standard questions that the residence halls will complete. These will include information on types of rooms, furniture, building amenities, etc. This information will be ready by February 1, 2002.) The latter content, detailing the cultures of the various dorms, will be created by the dorms themselves. The cultural content will include pages in the book, webpages, and videos. Guidelines for these pieces will be created by Matt Cain and Vikash Gilja and will be given to dormitory representatives by the end of November. (A preliminary version of this can be found at A more final version will be at this by November 15th. Non-cultural information guidelines will be created by Rick Gresh and Denise Vallay by February 1st.

The FSILGs will send a mailing to interested freshmen after they have received their housing assignment, most likely mid to late July. This would be in generally the same format as in previous years: the rush book. Each house would develop a printed booklet or pamphlet that would be distributed in one large mailing. Along with that mailing will be shipped another CD-ROM. This would be similar to the I3 CD created by the dorms for the first mailing. Guidelines for this content will be virtually identical to those given to the dormitories. The basic information on facilities and cost will be withheld until the freshmen are on campus in order to better emphasize the different cultures of the FSILGs.
All publications will include applicable paper forms for those who do not have access to the web.
Room Assignment chairs will be able to contact freshmen over the summer if they need to ask them questions before making room assignments. Guidelines for telephone contact will be created by the Look and Feel group before by the deadline for I3 content.

Cultural Houses

The Cultural Houses in New House hold a special position in the MIT residence system. As such, they need to be addressed specially in the planning for 2002.

The freshman Housing Selection Lottery due date will move a week earlier than previously discussed to June 21 to allow for a period during which Cultural Houses can contact interested freshmen. At the end of that week, they will submit a list of individuals to Denise Vallay who they have verified meet the criteria for membership in the House. At the same time, RLSLP must receive confirmation from the incoming first-year student that they would indeed like to live in the Cultural Houses. Assignments to Cultural Houses will be made prior to the running of the housing selection lottery over the summer. (See Assignments, Procedures Step 2.)

Students assigned to Cultural Houses over the summer will have the opportunity to enter the Orientation Adjustment Lottery if they do not wish to be part of the Cultural House. We have yet to devise a mechanism to deal with the potential problem of a freshman who wishes to squat his or her room in a Cultural House against the wishes of the house.

Additionally, Cultural Houses are aware that if they do not fill their beds themselves, RLSLP reserves the right to assign people to those spots. The exact process for Cultural Houses to fill beds that are not filled over the summer still needs to be worked out.

Another point of agreement was that Cultural Houses need to have improved visibility over CPW and over the summer. The admissions office is willing to amend the CPW reply card to include the option to be housed in a Cultural Houses alongside the traditional "Dorm" and "FSILG" options. In return, the Cultural Houses would need to guarantee a certain number of available hosts. Specific details will be worked out as CPW approaches. As far as summer representation is concerned, a Cultural House representative was added to the Publications (i.e. Look and Feel) super-sub-committee to ensure proper representation in promotional materials.

The Cultural Houses are quite eager to be a part of the process and we feel confident that the group will convene to meet any applicable deadlines that are set forth by RSIT. The main Cultural House deadlines are driven by the various publications. The publication content deadlines set forth by the Publications (Look and Feel) super-sub-committee should be considered to be the Cultural Houses' deadlines for finalizing policies and procedures.

Questions to answer by 11/15

Questions to answer (by November 15th if possible):
  1. Will FSILGs be in the book
  2. What will the name of the book be? The "Guide to '1st Year' Residences"?
  3. How much space will each living group get in the book
  4. How much space will each living group get on the CDs
  5. What introductory material should both resources contain, and what technical information is important
  6. Should we perhaps coordinate with IS (Jag and Anne) so the look and feel of the lottery interface will be consistant with other online publications and I3
  7. Coordinate working with the Admissions office on the "Guide to Undergraduate Residences" that is distributed during CPW


Committee Members | Important Dates | Procedures | Some notes on the lottery algorithm

Committee Members and contact information

Denise Vallay, Chair —
Tony Gray —
Jeff Roberts —

Important Dates

Friday, October 26 Primary Housing Selection Lottery and algorithm meeting with IS
By the end of December Rough design of the lottery available for discussion
January and February Housing Selection Lottery testing and revisions
By the end of April Upperclass transfers end and returning student confirmation forms due
June 7 to June 21, 2002 Incoming freshmen enter the Housing Selection Lottery online
June 21 to June 28, 2002 Cultural Houses contact freshmen; each group, and their interested freshmen, report to Denise
July 1st, 2002 Lottery runs
July 5 to 19, 2002 Dorm assignments are made; room assignments are made
August 29th, 30th, 2002 Orientation Adjustment Lottery runs

Detailed Procedures

Step 0
Thursday, October 25
The first in a series of meetings to bring the RACs up to speed and incorporate their opinions. Started to talk about the RSIT Planning Calendar and how it would work with their schedules. The next meeting is slated for November 28th, and we'll be discussing and reworking the lifestyle questionnaire.

Friday, October 26
Met with Jag Patel and Anne Salemme to discuss the entire assignments process. We concentrated on dates and tasks, proposing a tentative timeline. We talked about lottery technicalities and generalities concerning the algorithm and compliance with the Bacow Report.

Step 0.5
By the end of December
Jag and Anne design the Housing Selection Lottery. They present the framework to us in mid December, giving us the opportunity to evaluate it and tweak where necessary. At this point, we should be conscious of student input.

January and February
We'll test the Housing Selection Lottery in January and February. We need to come up with some kind of parameters for its success and a means of evaluation. Maybe RLSLP or RSIT can enter a false lottery just for testing fun.

Step 0.75
All upperclass students will have filled out returning student confirmations or housing cancellation forms. This includes students who are moving into FSILG's. The Fall lottery for students who have identified that they are interested in making house-to-house switches (including a move into Simmons Hall) will be run in order to accommodate the many requests. All upperclass spaces will be assigned leaving defined freshmen spaces within each residence hall by the end of April. The list of defined freshmen rooms spaces will be give to the Undergraduate Housing Office. The expectation is that the number of available freshman spaces will be proportionate to the number of other classes represented in the halls. Following this lottery, the process for house-to-house switches will be frozen. Exceptions will be made through June for students returning with recommendations from Counseling and Support Services or MIT Medical. It is yet to be determined how each individual house rooming constitutions will allow for these students to be assigned after the upperclass assignments are defined.

Step 1. The Process
June 7 — June 21, 2002
Incoming freshmen enter the Housing Selection Lottery online. They will have received the communications and publications stuff, such as guide to 1st year res and the I3 CD upon which they will have based an educated and informed decision.

They obtain MIT certificates, and enter the Housing Assignments web site where they indicate their dorm preferences 1 through 10, and whether they are interested in a Cultural Houses, and whether they would like to receive information on the FSILGs.

They also fill out a Lifestyle Questionnaire which will be updated, with the help of the RACs, by December.

The Housing Selection Lottery closes on the 21st. There will be some provision for those who absolutely cannot make the June 21st deadline. For those who cannot enter on the web, a paper copy of the Selection information will be made available. Consideration will be made for those students who have special needs, including medical, CSS, and ADA.

Step 2
June 21 — June 28
The Cultural Houses contact freshmen who indicated a preference for these houses and report back to Denise by the 28th with a list of those freshmen to who they have offered places. The freshmen also need to report back to Denise by the 28th to confirm this.

Step 3
July 1st
We run the Housing Selection Lottery program. The dorm preferences generated by the incoming freshmen will be fed into the lottery program by Denise and she will collect and analyze the results. The program will be designed in such a way that Denise can run it several times, making slight changes to its parameters to see how the results vary. The program will also be flexible enough to accommodate the fall Orientation Adjustment Lottery, the spring follow up lottery, and any future changes to the residence system -- the addition of new dorms, the removal or vamping of old ones, for example. It is essential, of course, that the lottery be as fair and transparent as possible, and the general details of how the lottery program works will be made available to the students. (Specific details on the lottery algorithm to follow.)

Step 4
July 5 — 19
The dorm assignments go to the various RACs who make the assignments to their dorm rooms based upon the freshmen questionnaires. These room assignments are due to Denise by July 15. And then on July 19th the final assignments are put up on the web site by Jag and Anne. A paper mailing, and perhaps an electronic one, will be sent as well.

Step 5
August 30th
The Orientation Adjustment Lottery is run on the the 30th using the same lottery program from the summer but making allowances for certain differences in the lottery as follows. Students entering the Orientation Adjustment Lottery will rank up to 3 alternative dorms and if they aren't successful will be guaranteed their original room. Results will be released on Friday the 31st. (However, if they are successful in the lottery they will be required to move to their new dorm.) These restrictions on the Orientation Adjustment Lottery are based upon requirements outlined in the Bacow report and result in certain complications in the creation of the lottery program.

Step 6
August 31th — September 1st
Once all students have received their dorm assignments, the in-house room assignment process begins. Freshmen will get a chance to interact with upperclassmen, see available rooms, and learn about the various hall cultures. They will then have the option of going through internal rooming procedures or squatting their rooms. Squatting is only an option for those freshmen who are in the residence hall to which they were assigned over the summer. Internal rooming procedures are determined by the individual dorms, advised by DormCon.

Some notes on the lottery algorithm

Denise and Tony met with Jag and Anne from IS on October the 26th. What follows are some things they talked about, and some things they didn't, regarding the technical workings of the lottery.

Broadly speaking, there are two basic strategies one might take to running the lottery: call them filling up dorms, or satisfying preferences. The Filling Up Dorms strategy begins, predictably, with the first dorm in some predecided order and filling up all its available slots with people who identified it as their first preference; conflicts are decided by some form of random selection process. Those people who do not succeed in getting their first choice are returned to the candidate pool, and the process goes to the next dorm. Many variations on this theme are possible, but that's the basic idea. The Satisfying Preferences strategy begins by looking at the people's various preferences and trying to best accommodate those in the available residence spaces. It is important, for both strategies, to have quantitative means to decide which of two competing results is the better one.

The Filling Up Dorms (by lottery and then preference) strategy has the virtue of being relatively straight forward and computationally light. (There is some evidence that this method resides in the current black box.) But it has the drawback of compounding lottery losses by the unlucky, making the unlucky increasing unlucky, and widening the disparity between those who are lucky early and those who are unlucky late. This is less fair than certain alternatives.

The Satisfying Preferences strategy seems the more logical approach, given the lottery's goals, anyhow. It has the virtue of being more fair than the FIlling Up Dorms strategy -- it is unlikely to compound lottery losses -- and it is flexible enough to accommodate the sorts of tweaks and changes that Denise needs to be able to make (during the actual running of the Housing Selection Lottery and for the execution of the other lotteries, the Orientation Adjustment Lottery and the spring and fall lotteries). The Filling Up Dorms approach could also satisfy these requirements, but with greater rewriting and at some cost, once again, to its fairness. The Satisfying Preferences strategy is, however, more complicated and computationally heavy than some of its rivals.

One Preference Satisfying approach is to use a monte carlo style algorithm to arrive at some equilibrium state which can be tweaked depending on how the algorithm is weighted. In the summer, the weighting -- say, whether to maximize 1st and 2nd choices, or to minimize 5th and 6th choices, or whatever -- can be fiddled with between runs in order to produce the best result. (How exactly to measure the 'best' result needs a little thought, but at first glance, anyway, a the old preference/value system seems like a good start.) In the Orientation Adjustment Lottery (and the Spring lottery) it makes some sense to maximize on people's 1st and 2nd choices given that, at worst, they ought to be in at least their 4th or 5th choice as a result of the origina Housing Selection Lottery already.

Glossary of Terms

Cultural House (formerly known as “theme houses”)
kuhl chE rEl  haus
These include: Russian House, German House, Spanish House, French House, Chocolate City

Freshman Residence Orientation and Selection of Housing (FROSH)
frehsh mEn  reh zih dEns  o ri ehn te shEn  aend  sE lehk shEn  uhv  hau zIng”
The RSIT sub committee which will plan the process of first year undergraduate housing assignments and the events of what was formerly called 'rush'.

Housing Selection Lottery
hau zIng  sE lehk shEn  la tE ri”
The function which maps students and preferences to residence halls. This takes place over the summer.

Orientation Adjustment Lottery (formerly known as the 'correction' or the 'orientation' lottery).
“o ri ehn te shEn  E juhst mEnt  la tE ri”
The function which maps students who are interested in changing residences after R.O. to new residence halls.

Residence Hall
reh zih dEns  hawl
Elsewhere called a 'dorm' or 'dormitory'.

Residence Orientation, or R.O. (formerly known as “Rush”, also “R/O”)
reh zih dEns  o ri ehn te shEn” (or simply “ar o”)
The exploration process during the last week of August where freshmen have the opportunity to visit various residence halls and learn about their respective communities.

Spring and Fall Housing Lotteries
sprIng  aend  fawl  hau zIng  la tE ri”
Follow up lotteries for those upperclass students who are interested in changing residences. This will replace the current waiting list system.

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