Proposal for Residential Steering Committee
Submitted by Ashdown House, May 1999
1) Started from the Appendix A of the report namely the values, and devised a plan to satisfy ALL of them.
a) The central value being "MIT residence system is the home of the community dimension of the triad: research, academics, community"
b) The current MIT community has many positive points which can serve as foundation for future improvement:
· providing vibrant, diverse communities in the dormitories and the FSILG system,
· providing choice for all students
2) We feel that the overall residence system plan must satisfy the needs of the entire student body - graduate and undergraduate.
a) Freshman - First year grads: programming
b) Heterogeneity of housing system.
c) Presence of upperclassmen/nth year grads useful for sense of history, continuity and guidance.
· Because of these parallels, an integrated residential plan can better satisfy the needs of both communities.
3) We at Ashdown try to address these needs in the graduate community.
a) Approximately 40% of our community consists of First year students, and they represent the most dynamic and active members of Ashdown
b) We have extensive first year graduate student orientation programs coordinated by the returning graduate students
c) The orientation programs lead to cultural, social, volunteer and athletic programs throughout the year.
d) As a community of scholars, we hold research talks, and regularly interact with faculty through house dinners, musical brunches, and coffee hour
e) Ashdown House also acts as the central meeting please for the larger graduate community. GSC and academic departments conduct programs in the house. The Thirsty Ear Pub provides an informal gathering place for research groups.
· Much of the life of Ashdown centers on the first year graduate students, and this is paralleled in the undergraduate community. So naturally we have to address the residential life of freshmen.
4) The central challenge for any proposal is to stay true to all the values, specifically maintaining the diverse individual communities, while housing all the freshmen on campus by 2001.
a) To meet this challenge, we propose distributing the freshman among the existing undergraduate dorms and the planned 2001 dorm.
b) This would require 35% of the on campus undergraduate beds to be occupied by freshmen. This assumes 1100 incoming students (as per Phase II report) and the completion of the 2001 dorm on time.
c) Within each dorm, the numbers may vary. The proportion of freshman students in a specific dorm would be determined by a number of factors.
· Architecture - dorms with more common spaces and doubles are better suited for freshmen
· Location - dorms closer to the residential center of campus offer more opportunity for interaction with other students
· Dorm Culture - some cultures may be more open to freshmen involvement
d) We also support the committee's idea to cluster freshmen within their respective dorms around RA's.
· Better integrates freshmen into the greater MIT community
· This plan specifically addresses value 4(choice), 9(diversity).
5) More important than location is the freshmen orientation. We support the committee's recommendation for extensive freshmen programming, and the encouragement of interaction between freshmen, upperclassmen, and graduate students.
a) We believe the best way to introduce freshmen to the MIT community as a whole is by distributing the programming throughout campus.
b) Each dormitory will play host to a different part of the MIT-sponsored freshman programming.
c) This will be an opportunity for residents of the various dormitories to introduce the new students to their distinct culture, and MIT should encourage the dorms to organize and hold their own programs to give the freshmen a taste of what life there could offer.
d) Each freshmen cluster (along with their associated R.A.) would attend these events at the various locations, while also helping to host events that take place in their own dorm.
e) This need not be restricted to just the residence halls, but could be extended to include the graduate dorms and the FSILG's in the form of a relaxed and informal fall rush.
· Integrates the diverse cultures of the various residence halls and living groups through freshmen.
· Promotes entrepreneurial spirit in the residence halls.
· Prepares freshmen for "sophomore shuffle" by allowing a more informed decision, and by encouraging movement between residences.
6) Ashdown House can also serve as a host site for the freshmen programming. Graduate students have experienced life at MIT and elsewhere and can be of enormous value in providing perspective and guidance to MIT undergraduates. Some initial ideas of programs that could be held at Ashdown include:
a) Introduction to UROPs (5x) and research at MIT
b) Advice for upperclassmen considering graduate life
c) Act as Departmental liaisons by being intermediaries for the undergradutes
d) Interact with TA's on an informal basis
7) Final Thoughts
a) You may note that we have not specifically addressed the idea of freshman hall. In this paradigm of a decentralized freshman orientation system, there is no need for a single, central site for the freshman events. Freshmen will feel more comfortable moving about the entire residential system.
b) Even if there were a freshmen hall, the 80% of freshmen that live in other dormitories will feel more at home in their dormitories than in the freshmen hall. In order to create a common space for the freshmen, one needs a more "neutral" venue outside the residential system where all freshmen can feel equally welcome. A possible site for such community space could be the student center vacancy previously occupied by Newbury comics. This site would be central, lively, convenient and ideal for such a purpose.
c) I hope you can see how we've adhered to the Steering Committee's values in constructing this proposal.
d) We've reframed the "problem" of housing freshmen on campus into part of the solution. Incoming students are the most vibrant and energetic part of any institution. We can use this energy to strengthen the bonds between the different facets of the MIT community.
e) Promote interaction between all the different communities at M.I.T., graduates, undergraduates, and faculty.