MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Office of the Dean for Student Life Office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs
77 Massachusetts Avenue Building W20-549
Cambridge, MA 02139 Tel. (617) 253-6777
Fax (617) 253-8391
Residence System Implementation Team (RSIT)
Wednesday, June 6 @ 8:00am-9:00am in PDR-3
Attendees: Phil Bernard, Rick Gresh, Rebecca Grochow, Julie Norman, Liz Young,
Rory Pheiffer, Jeff Roberts, David Rogers, Larry Benedict, Kate Baxter,
Grace Kessenich, Larry Bacow
The meeting was opened at 8:00am by Larry Benedict.
Chancellor Bacow expressed his thanks to the team for all their efforts. Bacow began by outlining/clarifying the main principles underlying his report.
#1 - PRESERVE CHOICE: It is his sense that the Institute would do well to move "choice" to a different point in time. First-year students will continue to express choices and living groups will continue to make decisions. In terms of residence selection, students currently don't have complete choice - expressing preferences in a lottery will continue to be the assignment process.
#2 - ENHANCE CHOICE: In our current system, there is one choice that is not available - that is knowing where you will live before you arrive. This is an additional choice that should and will be provided. He also challenged the group to consider how developing a new process for living group selection might increase individual ability to make good decisions.
#3 - FLEXIBILITY: We must anticipate obstacles and changes in the residential system. The best of systems are not perfect. Over the years, changes will need to be made.
#4 - SOCIAL REJECTION: NO student should face social rejection as their first MIT experience, whether it be from Dorms or FSILGs. Traditions of "anti-rush" are cruel, and this behavior should be discouraged. NO student should be welcomed to MIT in this fashion.
#5 - RICHNESS OF DIVERSITY: MIT would be a better place if each student could experience the richness of the diversity present at MIT. Students currently tend to cluster in homogeneous groups. The homogeneity and longevity of some of our residential cultures are not as healthy as they could/should be. The power of peer learning is an important component. The MIT Administration is not intending to "destroy cultures." The easy way out would be to discontinue the ability for a student to choose their living environment. The Administration has no intention of doing that. However, there are unhealthy living environments on campus and the issue does need to be addressed.
#6 - LIQUIDITY: Roberts added an additional principle as a follow-up to an earlier conversation he had with the Chancellor. Liquidity is an effort to erase the current stigma attached to movement in the residential system. Roberts expressed his concern that the current system will place students permanently at the end of orientation, that the system would not foster movement. Roberts went on to clarify that his goal is not to get masses of freshman to move, but to be more fluid. He expressed his interest in seeing the stigma removed from living groups, but he does want students to know that "its okay" to move. Bacow emphasized the Administrations desire to continue to extend the option of moving to students, and that the Dormitory Council and IFC both agree to encourage movement. There are great advantages in the students being able to move, as people can not be expected to "get it right" the first time. Bacow also added as a reminder that the concept of students being able to move each semester came from the students.
Roberts discussed that first-year students need an introduction to where they will be living. In recent conversations with Norman, ideas have been outlined such as events held in Residence Halls during orientation, providing a picture of the community and social expectations, etc.
Roberts reiterated his desire to preserve choice, adding that freshman need to actually "see" the living options even before they arrive on campus. Bacow pointed out that a significant amount of MIT students select MIT without ever seeing the campus. Student should be able to express a preference in a lottery based upon significant and improved information provided by MIT prior to arrival.
Gresh pointed out that the great thing about the new system is that showcasing the residence halls and/or cultures will be expanded beyond the actual "orientation" time frame; that orientation will be a "continuous process", ongoing throughout the year.
Benedict suggested the possibility of organizing a "Task Force" on the first year.
Bernard encouraged the RSIT team to anticipate that the current cultures will change, and this should be anticipated as a natural evolvement. Roberts conceded that, however it was his sense that this change should be initiated by that same culture, not the Administration. Roberts and Bernard will work together on creating a new Spring housing lottery. Benedict was in favor of the Spring housing lottery planning, adding that the first semester could be used as a time to "showcase" all of the residence halls and cultures.
Benedict suggested turning it into a celebration, and to build it into the MIT culture/community. This would also serve as a "marketing tool" to showcase MITs living options. Benedict went on to request that the RSIT team break up into groups for the summer:
1 - One group would take the principles discussed and use them to outline a new design for Orientation and Residence Selection. What will residence recruitment look like?
2 - The second group would work on the Fall/Spring lottery system.
3 - (This is discussed later) - Resolve the FILG Fall 2002 Recruitment Schedule - currently two different schedules are being proposed.
Roberts suggested planning to open the discussion to the MIT community in order to "test" the ideas.
Young went on to add that the academic circles have not been properly represented, that the faculty needs to be pulled in to successfully move ahead. Benedict suggested that Steve Graves be asked to assist the Faculty in joining the planning process.
Discussion moved to the timing of FSILG Recruitment. Pheiffer summarized the pros and cons to the two proposed schedules (see summary of pros and cons for more information). Fifth week flags were discussed. Norman offered that as it is now, 42% of students will receive a "5th week flag." Gresh offered the suggestion that this could be avoided if "mandatory study breaks" were implemented. Provided the opportunity for students to work together/provide support. Gresh also went on to clarify that students will not be forced to participate in the Fall recruitment, they can opt to wait for the Spring. Bacow did not have any "strong feelings" about the concept, but did profile the following advantages/disadvantages:
- Is there a way to make recruitment "less intense?" Perhaps the entire system could be reinvented?
- There is an issue of "timing." This process will take a number of years to perfect. Bacow suggested that RSIT experiment with different versions, urging the committee to "think." Bacow would like to be consulted on what RSIT comes up with until the end of June, and encouraged RSIT to work with the new Chancellor, Philip Clay. Bacow reminded the Committee that there is no "right" answer.
Benedict asked Pheiffer if a standing committee was in place to discuss issues like this? Pheiffer reported that the IFC would elect the 2002 Chair in October. Baxter communicated that training programs to create opportunities for houses to prepare for 2002 were begun this past year. It was also discussed to use Family Weekend as an opportunity to communicate FSILG information to parents.
Benedict and the RSIT thanked Bacow for his presence and counsel.
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