News

Maseeh MHEC votes to secede from DormCon

Decision comes at end of a meeting, passes with 4-3 of the dorm’s executive committee

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: A previous version of this story mistakenly indicated that Maseeh pays $2310 in DormCon taxes per year — the figure is actually per semester, summing to $4620 per year assuming the 462-resident capacity. A previous version also incorrectly identified MHEC. It is “Maseeh Hall Executive Council.”

Maseeh Hall Executive Council (MHEC) emailed the Dormitory Council (DormCon) last night to withdraw Maseeh from DormCon, citing budget-related and representation concerns. A 4-3 vote of Maseeh Exec passed the motion Sunday night. Previously, Bexley had been for years the only dorm not in DormCon, and it stopped paying its yearly $1,200 tax to DormCon in 2008.

“I’m very sad to hear that Maseeh has chosen to secede,” wrote DormCon president Edward A. Mugica ’13 in an email to The Tech. “The secession email sent to DormCon did not enumerate any specific concerns, so I am unable to respond to any such concerns.” DormCon has funded campus events that they believe benefit residents of all dorms, said Mugica, adding that DormCon has also helped fund events like Baker’s Piano Drop, Burton Conner’s DTYD, and Senior House’s Steer Roast.

“We hope that Maseeh … might consider returning to DormCon in the near future,” wrote Mugica, “and we further hope that other dormitories consider the positive impact their respective memberships in DormCon have had on their dormitory communities.”

Of Maseeh’s seven-member executive committee, president Clay V. Goggil ’14, vice president Keanu A. Delgado ’15 , parliamentarian Bruno B.F. Faviero ’15 (a Tech news editor), and voting member at large Austin D. Fathman ’15 voted in favor of seceding. Treasurer Joseph A. Abadi ’15, secretary Logan J. Mercer ’15, and freshman representative Maggie O’Grady ’16 (a Tech copy editor) voted against the motion. Maseeh’s full house government has 23 other members, and the dorm currently has a 462-resident capacity which will be expanding next academic year.

“It’s been a decision in the works since Maseeh was founded,” said Fathman. “The decision was made mostly by [Goggil],” said Delgado, who declined to comment further. Deniz Oktay ’16, a ground floor representative in Maseeh legislature, said that “exec talks about these issues,” not the broader house government.

“This is the first I’ve heard about the decision,” wrote Maseeh Housemaster Jack Carroll in an email to The Tech around 7:40 p.m. last night responding to an inquiry.

The decision was an abrupt one near the end of Sunday’s MHEC meeting. “We had about four minutes left at the MHEC meeting, and Clay, our president, brought this up out of nowhere,” said Brandon E. Avila ’16, one of Maseeh’s 2nd Floor representatives. Goggil then motioned for a vote, which was seconded, and then the motion passed 4-3. “At this meeting, it all happened within about 90 seconds,” continued Avila, saying he doesn’t know if the subject had been thoroughly discussed at other meetings previously. Avila doesn’t think members considered the implications of leaving DormCon, saying that “most of us thought it was a hasty decision.”

“[Goggil] told us that this was going to happen whether or not we voted for it because that’s in his capacity as president,” said Avila. “So the vote was sort of a formality, but he was ready for Maseeh to leave DormCon no matter what we had said.” Maseeh’s house constitution does not list this power specifically, with relevant sections saying only that the president meets and interfaces with parties external to Maseeh Hall” and “is an advocate for students in the dorm to the House Team, outside entities, etc.” The house constitution also only broadly states that MHEC “makes statements of executive intent to guide the dorm.”

Residents were informed by Goggil in an email yesterday evening. “Over $4,000 a year of your Maseeh taxes were being spent for other dorms in ways that did not benefit you, and this coupled with lack of advocacy for Maseeh residents from DormCon lead us to our decision to secede,” wrote Goggil.

“[The decision] has been a long time coming,” said Goggil. “The decision to secede from DormCon was thrown around even before my tenure [as Maseeh president].” After this semester, Maseeh won’t be a voting member of DormCon, said Goggil, but will continue to send a representative “to at least get the information they provide.”

The largest issue for Maseeh is DormCon’s budget, said Goggil. Each dorm pays a tax of $5 per resident, and DormCon reallocates the money. “Maseeh puts in a lot more money than any other dorm, and then that money is reallocated to other dorms for things like CPW events,” said Goggil. “It feels like DormCon just reallocates money from large dorms to other dorms, and my residents are paying for events that they don’t attend.”

“The only benefit [of being part of DormCon] I can see is that we get a thousand dollars for CPW,” said Goggil, pausing. “Whoop-de-doo.”

Concerns over the budget were discussed at the most recent DormCon meeting on April 18. “We can fund things that dorms would not be able to or want to fund themselves, like promoting cross-campus or cross-dorm events,” said Mugica, according to their meeting minutes. Small dorms have less money than larger ones, Mugica said, and “DormCon can help redistribute money to allow smaller dorms to do things effectively.”

According to the minutes, Baker president Andrea Gutierrez Marty ’14 said that the reallocation system is unfair to larger dorms, and Michael E. Plasmeier ’13 (also from Baker) added that the allocation is “arbitrary.” Additionally, “it is worrisome for smaller dorms to be living outside of their means by requiring outside funding to run their CPW events,” said Goggil. Mugica responded that some dorms with effective CPWs have difficulty funding them, and it’s advantageous to MIT as a whole if those dorms are funded. For example, Random Hall is a small dorm that has “a lot of people who like running events” and needs outside funding to support those events, said Random representative Jacob B. Hurwitz ’14. “CPW is supposed to be more about MIT than about individual dorms. The money should go to dorms which have people who want to run events,” continued Hurwitz.

CPW isn’t the only area of funding, DormCon treasurer Phoebe J. Whitwell ’15 pointed out at the meeting, citing Steer Roast as an example of an event that would not happen without DormCon funding, but “benefits the whole community.”

When the subject of secession from DormCon was broached at the meeting, Mugica advised the dorm representatives that “you should strongly discuss it with your entire dorm.”

Previous secessions from DormCon

Bexley Hall has been the only dorm without a representative on DormCon for decades and does not consider itself a member. Historically, Bexley does not have a house government, and it stopped paying the yearly $1,200 tax to DormCon in Fall 2008.

“Mostly we were quite disappointed when we found out we wouldn’t be funding the yearly DormCon retreat, which is an integral event for the MIT undergraduate community,” said Bexley resident Kristjan Eerik Kaseniit ’14 sarcastically. “[W]e simply can’t figure out what to do with the money from house taxes on our own.” Essentially, Bexley isn’t “missing anything” from not being on DormCon, Kaseniit said.

Dormitories have considered leaving DormCon before, for various reasons. In December 1976, Burton House, Baker House, and MacGregor House threatened to secede from DormCon to form a “West Campus alliance,” citing policy differences.

Jessica J. Pourian and Stan Gill contributed reporting.

14 Comments
1
J Abbott about 5 years ago

Check your facts. DormCon charges $5 per resident per semester. So over $4000 per year is what Maseeh pays.

Source:

http://web.mit.edu/dormcon/constitution/

Note also that DornCon's exec retreat was budgeted at $4000.

Source: http://web.mit.edu/dormcon/minutes/2013-04-18.pdf

The minutes show a general dislike of the large spending on the exec retreat.

2
Anonymous about 5 years ago

I like how you had to qualify that Kristjan was speaking "sarcastically".

3
Anonymous about 5 years ago

Lol. The tech is just great, I write sarcastically.

It's $2310x2 for the dorm tax for Maseeh, so over $4,000 was correct.

I find it funny that the DormCon President seems to be shocked by what happened, yet it says that in the minutes secession was brought up at the meeting. It seems that Maseeh and the other larger dorms have mentioned this before.

4
Anonymous about 5 years ago

I sincerely hope SH does not let a single Maseeh resident into Roast this weekend...

5
Anonymous about 5 years ago

Perhaps this will ring some bells:

http://tech.mit.edu/V133/N9/dormcon.html?comments#comments

6
Anonymous about 5 years ago

4 - well that would be stupid considering Maseeh residents already paid for it. And since DormCon funded it, they must anyone who is a resident to attend otherwise DormCon would pull their funding.

I also do not think this was an attack on any particular dorm. Maybe Dormcon will have to stop spending thousands on meeting food and retreats every year so they can fund Steer Roast next year.

7
Anonymous about 5 years ago

Any dorm is more than capable of receiving more money that it put into Dorcom, all it has to do is apply for funds to throw events.

Baker for instance receives more money from Dormcon than it gives.

What is particularly shady is the fact that this was passed at the end of the meeting and was not on the agenda. In addition, all non exec members had been barred from speaking earlier in the meeting.

In terms of "advocacy" it doesn't seem like Maseeh's exec is doing a very good job and doesn't have much room to criticize.

8
Anonymous about 5 years ago

It is saddening that Maseeh would toss away a key institution of MIT student self-governance over a small amount of money. The sum of money is less, I will note, than a single Maseeh freshman pays for their mandatory dining plan, which feeds them overpriced, incredibly subpar food. If they didn't like the dormcon tax or how it was spent, they might have tried to work to change it, or even better, make better use of the system.

MIT is not just a place to do problem sets and be spoonfed knowledge (or bad mass-produced food) - it is a place how to learn how to be an adult, and a productive member of society. Self governance, in all its mess, is about taking an active role in shaping our community. Those who are apathetic will always be at the mercy of those who learn how to make things happen - who take interest and ownership. What lessons are students learning from the Maseeh residential experience? How to be solid mid-level computer software engineers who never advance past the level of being a good worker bee?

I suppose when Bexley seceded from Dormcon there was something to be respected in their statement of principled anarchy, at least, but it hasn't exactly worked out well for them. Dormcon wasn't able to effectively advocate for them on the Area Director position, and this (as well as their lack of any government) played a role in their getting the worst treatment of any dorm in that process. They will have an administrator living squarely in the middle of everything - on the fourth floor - which will drastically change their community. Pity the soul who gets that job.

I know that Maseeh thinks that it loves the administration, and loves authority, and all that, and that they have no need for institutions which attempt to protect student communities' ability to shape their environment - or at least, to have a seat at the table when the administration is shaping it for them. The time may come when they realize that this was a mistake - maybe when the housemaster decides to have that second kid, and institute quiet hours through the dorm at all times.

In any case it is worth realizing that more is at stake than $5/resident, something it appears did not even occur to the Maseeh president when he was ramming this through without debate or consideration.

9
Anonymous about 5 years ago

8: Protest and concrete action are necessary to force change and root out corruption. If DormCon is content to spend $4000 on themselves at their taxpayers' expense, then protecting the students from the administration is the least of their concerns.

My regards to Maseeh for taking a step on this issue. A little turbulence should throw some individuals of DormCon out of their decadent nests.

And as for the unfortunate Bexley RLAD-to-be, may the heavens protect him/her from being eaten alive.

10
Anonymous about 5 years ago

9: DormCon's retreat was far from extravagant. Far less than the UA's 30 person overnight retreat to the Cape, which was footed by students as well.

Transition meetings are extremely important for continuity between years, particularly with organizations who have been mere hours away from complete dissolution (last year). In almost all cases, better results are achieved by taking this retreat off campus so students can be present and participating for the duration.

11
Anonymous about 5 years ago

8: DormCon has done shit for any dorm involving RLADs not just Bexeley. DormCon has no power.

And this same group of people on DormCon are also on the UA. No advocacy is being lost, because DormCon does not provide it.

12
Anonymous about 5 years ago

11: You'd be surprised at the lack of overlap between Dormcon members and UA members. Almost all of them delegate their UA seat to someone else.

And Dormcon would be able to provide advocacy if its members weren't routinely acting in a way completely detrimental to the group as whole.

13
Anonymous about 5 years ago

To those of you who are suggesting that by seceding, Maseeh is increasing awareness/ action on a key issue, I think that's a bit silly. DormCon is a democratic institution, and change should not come via one dorm trying to hold the rest of the dorms hostage under threat of secession.

If Maseeh's concern is that DormCon is not actually a representative democracy because, say, the vote of a Random Hall resident holds more weight than the vote of a Massean, I think this argument holds far more weight. This is the same dilemma of senate vs. congress, and which one more effectively represents the union.

However, this metaphor is not actually apt. As we have seen from the comments of the Maseeh president, and the manner in which the decision was passed, this rather important article was not discussed with the entire dorm. In fact, it was not even on the agenda until the last few minutes of the meeting. It seems to me, that though he was elected democratically, the president of Maseeh, in his action, is representing mainly himself. Ironically, this is the same vice he accuses DormCon of committing by allocating too much money to CPW.

TL;DR there is room for a civilized discussion about the budget allocation of DormCon, but Maseeh's decision to essentially throw a tantrum and quit is not a reasonable approach.

14
Anonymous about 5 years ago

12 "And Dormcon would be able to provide advocacy if its members weren't routinely acting in a way completely detrimental to the group as whole."

How about 'one of its members acting in a way completely detrimental to the group as whole'? I can only think of one who has done so in the last year.