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One upperclass student and 315 freshmen chose to live in fraternities, sororities and independent living groups (FSILGs) during Rush, exceeding even the most optimistic expectations of fraternity members and administrators. Housing officials projected that the Rush total could have been as low as 250.
The 316 does not include 30 places taken by the resident advisors required this year, making the FSILG population for 1998-99 comparable to last year, when 362 new students chose FSILGs.
"I am extremely pleased with the results of Rush 1998," said Interfraternity Council (IFC) president Duane Dreger, a junior in mathematics. "The 316 new residential members of the FSILG are much better than many of the rush chairs thought would pledge."
With Rush taking place on the heels of the announcement that all freshmen would be housed on campus starting in 2001, some predicted that FSILGs would be lucky to rush 200 new students.
"We knew that the pledge numbers would be down, but we did not know how far down they would be," said Phillip Bernard, program director for residential life in the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education. "We projected approximately 100 fewer pledges, but we knew that those projections would not be as accurate as we have been in past years."
The decision to require freshmen to live on campus in the future was greeted by consternation -- and in some cases, anger -- among undergraduates and alumni/ae, particularly those affiliated with fraternities. Administrators were peppered with questions from alumni/ae, students and others about the decision itself and the timing of the announcement on the eve of Orientation week. Some students demonstrated on the steps of 77 Massachusetts Ave. on registration day (September 8).
MESSAGE FROM VEST
In a letter distributed to members of the IFC on September 9, President Charles M. Vest said:
"I understand that some, probably most, of you felt that the announcement of my decision on freshman housing was ill-timed, but I can assure you it was not made lightly or without regard for the possible impact on Rush. Given the fact that so many rumors were flying around two weeks ago, I thought we should not prolong the uncertainty during Orientation Week. Indeed, it seemed to me that Rush might be calmer if it were not taking place in the context of a renewed debate. Therefore, on Tuesday, August 25, I sought and received the unanimous endorsement by the Academic Council of my decision that all first-year students should be housed in campus residence halls, beginning with the class entering in 2001ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ It was time for a decision to be madeï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½
"As I said in my August 25 letter to the MIT community, I believe that fraternities, sororities and independent living groups should and will continue to be important and valued elements of our campus life. You will be involved in the design of our future residential system and the transition to it, and we will help you manage this transition as it affects your houses.
"The decision on residence during the freshman year, while difficult for many of you, represents a major step toward enhancing our educational community and better integrating student life and learning. MIT thrives on inventing the future and designing new things. In this spirit, I hope we can work together to achieve this goal."
One of the 25 speakers at the demonstration for freshman housing choice invited the crowd to protest the new policy by joining him in tossing their MIT rings into the Charles River, while several others vowed not to wear theirs until that decision is reconsidered. The rings cost $300-$450.
"I like two things at my fraternity," said Andrew P. Oury, a senior in mechanical engineering and a member of Phi Sigma Kappa. "I like the people first and foremost -- they have become my best friends -- and I like the constructive outlet that my fraternity provides. I gain far more satisfaction from building a relationship with a brother in my house, or building a new loft to sleep in, or building up an office like social chair or house manager, than I ever will from turning in aï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½problem set or finishing a report. I cherish every moment that I've spent at my fraternity and I would feel robbed if MIT took a year of that away from me or anyone else."
Jeremy D. Sher, a member of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning, claimed the issue was thrust upon the Task Force. "We had a choice: either not recommend freshmen on campus, or recommend it and use that as an opportunity to get a word in edgewise about how to do it right," he said. "Personally, I chose the latter."
Mr. Sher noted that many of his MIT peers were angry -- "angry that a decision was made without students' knowledge or consent; angrier still that they are bearing the consequences of the actions of a small few of their less responsible fellow students," he said.
"I hope that the message gets communicated today to anyone who might be watching or listening, inside or outside MIT: that drunken recklessness is not our MIT way of life; that MIT students are, with only a few exceptions, mature, responsible people. I hope everyone in the world sees us today, with this orderly, professional demonstration, and understands that MIT students are responsible people who can make their own decisions."
The demonstration, which lasted for three hours, attracted about 100 students at its peak, in addition to a sprinkling of administrators, staff and bystanders.
Chancellor Lawrence Bacow will chair a community meeting on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 24 at which members of faculty committees, student groups and others will be invited to discusss plans for the new undergraduate residence hall, scheduled to open in 2001.
In addition, a dinner was held Monday night (Sept. 14) for faculty to discuss the freshman housing decision with faculty chair Lotte Bailyn and Chancellor Bacow.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 16, 1998.