DormCon Year-In-Review 2000-2001
It's been an interesting year for DormCon, so let's just get right to it.
We'll start with the crises. Governments often have to deal with crises. Nobody likes doing it, and so we try to be prepared for all circumstances, but unexpected things always come up. Sometimes mistakes are made, and sometimes things get ugly, but in the end we find a way to pull through and we learn things in the process. So here are a few of the "critical issues" that DormCon has found itself dealing with in the past year.
Shower Night. Back in September the issue of freshman shower night came to the forefront. Due to some damage which occurred during previous shower nights at Burton-Conner, Halston Taylor, the Burton-Conner Housemaster, decided to impose some strict guidelines for this year's installment of the spontaneous annual tradition. Some discussion within the office of the Dean for Student Life caused fear that DSL might try to impose similar rules to all dorms. Larry Benedict, having been at MIT for less than a month at this point, knew very little about shower night and consulted DormCon for help. After hearing comments from various dorm leaders about what shower night is and how the different dorms handle it, Benedict decided not to impose any overarching rules and to allow each dorm, through its Housemaster, house government, and JudComm, to set and enforce its own guidelines.
Next House and the CLC. An alcohol-related incident occurred at Next House in October, putting Next House before the CLC for the second time in only a few months. An initial response from the Dean for Conflict Resolution, Mediation and Discipline outlined sanctions against the students of Next House which were largely perceived as being overly severe. While only one dorm was directly affected, it was important to other dorms as well because it set a precedent for punishing an entire dorm or subsection for acts committed by a few individuals. DormCon supported Next House in successfully negotiating to alleviate these sanctions. Unfortunately, DormCon was unable to help alleviate sanctions imposed by the Cambridge Licensing Commission. It may be a future goal of DormCon to establish a better relationship with the CLC.
Residential Life Associates. In the fall, the office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs began working with the Housemasters on creating new staff support positions. The proposed plan was to hire four higher education professionals as Residential Coordinators, who would live in dorms and provide support to Housemasters, GRTs and students. This plan, however, was not communicated to students in a timely manner. When the plan was finally delivered to DormCon in March, it outlined a position description which students did not have input into creating and even specified the dorms which would host the new staff before consulting with students in those dorms. This prompted a strong negative response from the student body which was received loud and clear by the administration. Working with DormCon, as well as the Housemasters and the Graduate Student Council, RLSLP rewrote the position description (and renamed the position) to better match the interests of the MIT community. Individual dorms also took initiative and advocated for relocating some of the new staff apartments. Altogether this may have been an ugly issue, but in the end it served as a good example of the effectiveness of student involvement.
Aside from these big news items, DormCon has made some more subtle advancements which I think are as important as (if not more than) the items listed above.
Participation. We've gone from having 5 to 6 dorms represented at DormCon meetings to having 8 to 9 dorms represented. This means that the conversations had and decisions made within DormCon are more strongly mandated and better represent the diversity of the dorm student community. As DormCon begins meeting more often next year, we hope that the quality and effectiveness of our conversations will continue to improve.
Relations with the Administration. We have begun to forge a good working relationship with Larry Benedict, the new Dean for Student Life. Since coming to MIT, Benedict has seen DormCon work effectively to create an official forum for discussion of dorm life issues, and he is happy to have an organization of students who can help him to determine what issues are of concern to students and work to uphold and improve the quality of life in the dorms. Larry will surely continue to be a strong ally for DormCon in the future. Additionally, we have opened the door for more communication between DormCon and the administration on all levels, and will be seeing more administrators appearing at DormCon meetings.
JudComm. We have begun to strengthen the Judicial Committee system by establishing meetings and training sessions, bringing JudComm officers from all the dorms together. However, the JudComm system still has a long way to go. It is important that in the future, there is a visible and effective student-run system of conflict resolution in the dorms so that an administration-run system of conflict resolution is unnecessary. Larry Benedict is especially supportive of the Judicial Committee system, for it allows him to stay out of business which is better for the dorms to handle internally.
Relations with the IFC. We have continued to keep good relations with the IFC, and have begun to collaborate on projects such as TIPS training and publications. Hopefully this relationship will continue to develop in future years.
$Money$ We spent and allocated over $25,000 this year. $23,000 of this was allocated towards projects such as the EMT training class, Fall Festival, Spring Weekend, Concert for Humanity, Steer Roast, various other dorm-hosted events and some dorm facilities improvements.
And this all seems like nothing after looking at some of the issues on the horizon: the future of residence-based advising programs; the future of the house fellows program; budgeting for physical improvements to dorms; JudComm; house funds and house taxes; summer housing; and finally, the small issues of opening a new dorm and the transition to housing all freshmen on campus in 2002.
It's been my pleasure to serve as DormCon president for the past year and I hope to continue helping out while I'm around. I wish Matt Cain and his new executive committee much luck, I hope that they are smart enough not to repeat some of the mistakes of the past, and I hope that they get a chance to learn something and have some fun along the way. Because that's really what college is all about.