UA/DormCon/IFC Student Residence Implementation Team (Impish)
Spring Term 2000 Progress Report
May 16, 2000

Contents

Introduction
Interactive Introduction to the Institute
Residence Selection
FSILG Rush
Orientation
Housing Management Conference
Residential Programming

Appendix B: Residence Selection Process (PDF)
List of Team Members


Programming

Having all freshmen living in residence halls opens up the possibility of offering far more consistent residential life programs. In addition, inspired by the Presidential Task Force on Student Life and Learning, MIT has made a new commitment to student life and enriching the MIT community. These two facts come together to drive the programming aspect of the new residence system.

Chancellor Bacow's design calls for, but does not specifically outline, some significant changes to residence-based programs. We have decided to explain some of the different programs which have already begun to develop and suggest where such programs could go in the future.

Weekends@MIT

Weekends@MIT is an example of the commitment Chancellor Bacow has made in facilitating the 2002 transition. Different from other areas, though, this has begun well before the actual residential transitioning, as it is much needed currently as well as in the future. The Office of the Chancellor and the Office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs (RLSLP) have made available a fund of $50,000 per year to sponsor on-campus community-wide events organized by living groups. In conjunction with the Interfraternity Council and the Dormitory Council, these two offices have begun to successfully implement Weekends@MIT, which gets its name because it intends to enliven the weekend life of the campus. The funding is made available to living groups through a system of grant-writing which is approved by student representatives from IFC and DormCon as well as staff in RLSLP. These events are being sponsored in the hopes of increasing the quality of inter-living group relations, because it encourages different dorms and FSILGs to cooperate in putting on events for the entire campus.

The events sponsored by Weekends@MIT so far include:

From the feedback received on these events, they all appear to have been very successful. The events brought together many people from many different living groups and different areas of campus. The organizers were able to increase relations between or among their living groups. The events generally brought this campus to life in a different way from other events that have been held.

In the future, co-sponsored events will be commonplace and living groups will choose to sponsor them on their own. For now however, as this is a completely new concept to the majority of the MIT campus, funding mechanisms and other types of support are needed and greatly appreciated.

Graduate Resident Tutors

In our current system, GRTs have very little responsibility attached to their titles. We recommend that the job description with which they are provided become a clearer set of guidelines. GRTs should be responsible for programming efforts within their designated areas, and should work with each other to coordinate dorm-wide programming efforts as well. They should exist as a strong support network for students, emotionally, socially, and where applicable, academically. An assessment plan should be developed to determine if each GRT is performing his or her tasks adequately. Student and housemaster input will be key in this process.

Residential Academic Advising

pros and cons

With the implementation of the freshmen-on-campus decision, it will be possible, for the first time, for MIT to implement a residence-based academic advising system for freshmen. Academic advising, until now, has been disconnected from the residential experience at MIT, and many benefits may come from this union. We feel that this program could help to familiarize students with residential options and communities beyond their own, breaking down many of the barriers that currently exist from dorm to dorm or dorm to FSILG. It may also lend an increased element of identification with one's associate advisor, making academic advising generally more accessible. The environment of the living group may be seen as less threatening than an office or classroom environment, increasing the effectiveness of the program.

There are also difficulties one has to consider in such a program. For starters, many students feel the need for a separation between their academic and residential lives. In some ways, residence-based advising encroaches on their living and social space. Some students may actually need this space between academic and social space to function successfully at MIT. Some might fear that the formal and informal advising students currently receive in dormitories will be taken over by academic advising. There are also strong concerns held by the FSILG community. In a residential advising system where associate advisors are chosen from a pool of residents of a particular dorm, there is no mechanism for FSILG members to be advisors. FSILG members currently participate effectively in the freshman academic advising program. Finally, we are concerned that, depending on the implementation of residential advising, students would actually be less likely to be exposed to members of other living groups. The current academic advising system draws students with shared interests from all living options into seminars together, and a program which limits a student's exposure to individuals from other living groups might oppose our goal of fostering cross-campus interaction.

pilot programs

Two pilot programs on residence-based academic advising will be in effect next year, one in McCormick Hall and one in Random Hall. Each of these programs follows a different model.

In McCormick, freshmen women will choose to take part in the program, and thus to live in the dorm, over the summer. Thus McCormick, and the students participating in the program, will be giving up the opportunity to participate in a residential rush (though freshmen will be able to participate in Panhellenic rush). It has been chosen to be held in McCormick, with all women, because thereby it will not have an effect on fraternity rush (though it will affect co-ed and all-female ILGs, which should not be discounted). The program will involve eight associate advisors living in the dorm and eight faculty academic advisors who will hold their seminars within the building. The associate advisors will be nearby and available whenever students need help. The advisors and faculty will also get together at various times to hold events for all of McCormick.

We see some benefits and some drawbacks to this program. We think that having freshmen choose a dormitory based on their interests in academic advising might have an adverse effect in trying to build community. Since the women participating in this program will not be involved in dorm rush, and much of their time will be taken participating in the residence-based programs, they will not have much exposure to people on other parts of the campus. We also find it disappointing that the program will exclude participation from FSILG residents. However, the program might also have great benefits McCormick in terms of improving the quality of residential life and building a more cohesive community within the dorm. The important thing to remember is that this pilot program has been voluntarily taken on by the residents of McCormick, and that they have the right to reconsider that decision in the future if they feel the costs of the program are not worth the benefits. Similarly, a thorough evaluation of this pilot from all perspectives is necessary before the program considers expanding, and even then such a program must only be implemented on the directive of the students in the residences themselves.

The second pilot program is being held within Random Hall. In the next academic year, Random Hall will have three Residential Associate Advisors (RAAs). In addition to the duties of normal Associate Advisors, these RAAs will provide academic and personal support to the freshmen living in Random. Note that unlike the program at McCormick, the associates do not necessarily have to have any of the freshmen residents as their advisees. The RAAs will work with RLSLP, the Academic Resource Center, and MIT Medical. Specifically, RAAs will help with the planning and execution of dorm programming, such as informational study breaks (2 a month, minimum), will provide freshmen with information on a wide range of academic topics, including class and course selection, and will receive MedLink training to be able to assist with health matters. They are charged with being role models for their community, creating links to information and resources, and enriching life and learning in their dorm.

In the spirit of experimentation and diversity of options, we would like to recommend a third pilot program. The idea for this pilot comes largely from the final report of the Residential System Steering Committee. Students will choose seminars much as they have in the past, based solely on content and not on location or affiliation with a particular living group. Several seminars will be held in living groups, but advisees will not be drawn from any one hall or FSILG in particular. It is even possible that a seminar may choose to rotate where it meets, possibly through all residence halls, or possibly taking turns going to the living groups of each member. Thus freshmen would choose their seminar based on their interest in that seminar, but they would also become familiar with living options beyond their own and will feel more comfortable entering or moving to other living groups in the future. This program only makes a slight change to the current system, so it allows for FSILG involvement even after 2002 and does not interfere with residence selection.

A key to these programs is the evaluation process. The pilot programs should be evaluated according to the goals of residential advising at the Institute. Evaluation should include regular on-paper surveys of participating freshmen and upperclassmen, once-semesterly focus groups to provide a different level of feedback, and an end-of-year process so that all participants, including staff and faculty, can give their feedback on the programs. Feedback sought should not only seek the participants' views about the program, but should also seek more objective measurements. Possible questions of this second type include "How many faculty members have you spoken to outside the classroom in the last month?" and "How much time do you spend doing homework/problem sets each week?" Questions of the first type include "Do you feel that you are aware of MIT's counseling resources?" and "How would you rate your satisfaction with the residential advising program?" Because the programs are experimental, the same evaluations should be given to "control" groups of students. This will provide a baseline to measure the successes and failures of the experiments.

Altogether, four points should be considered in the evaluation of these programs. 1) Feedback should be sought from all participants, including both freshmen and upperclassmen. 2) Feedback should also be sought at several points along the process, including a more in-depth end-of-year evaluation. 3) Several control groups should be designated, some in dormitories and some in other living groups. 4) The study methodologies should be as identical as possible for the both the experiment groups and the control groups.

Over the course of the next year, we would like to see all three of these plans fully implemented. There should be a well-developed plan to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each, and the programs should be altered according to the information gathered. It may even result that a combination of these pilots will works best for the residential system as a whole, or it may result that a variety of different programs is the best plan. Altogether, we would like to see improvements made to the freshman advising program, regardless of which pilot works best, and whether or not residential advising is successful.


Contents

Introduction
Interactive Introduction to the Institute
Residence Selection
FSILG Rush
Orientation
Housing Management Conference
Residential Programming

List of Team Members