Barnhart and Nelson plan changes to housing selection process

Administrators have begun meeting with residence hall leadership

Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 and Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson have initiated a year-long process to assess and possibly amend the move-in and housing lottery systems of living groups across campus.

The process will involve gathering input from stakeholders including the Undergraduate Association, Dormitory Council, house presidents, and heads of house, Matt Bauer, director of communications for the Division of Student Life, wrote in an email to The Tech. Barnhart and Nelson began conducting meetings with residence hall presidents Oct. 22, and will attend the DormCon meeting tonight to discuss their findings.

In an email sent to house presidents Oct. 23, Nelson pointed to “negative aspects” of current housing lotteries such as “rejection for some due to house ‘rush’” and asked the presidents to consider how the housing selection process can be used to “affirm MIT’s values on diversity.” She wrote that over the course of the fall, “houses will think creatively about ways to redesign their housing lottery,” and that the process will continue with a workshop taking place during IAP.

Additionally, Nelson sent a draft of the “guiding principles” to be used in focusing discussions. These included granting agency in the selection process to both first-year students and upper-level students transferring between dorms, as well as the slogan “we reject rejection,” referring to the in-house rush periods in which certain living groups, such as those in East Campus and New House, choose who will live in their communities.

A number of students and alumni have spoken out against the redesign, which comes less than a year after Caltech’s administration controversially ended the involvement of upperclassmen in freshman house selection.

“Judgement and rejection are a natural part of social interaction. ... However, there are definitely ‘nice ways’ to tell someone no and ‘dickish ways’ to tell someone no, and we especially don’t want our systemic policies to facilitate the latter,” Tesla Wells ’20, president of East Campus, wrote in a public Facebook comment. “I am hopeful that a solution can be devised that mitigates negative aspects of ‘hall rush’ without compromising communities, sub-optimally placing people, or making the experience Less Enjoyable for freshman [sic].”

Update 11/1/18: A quote from Tesla Wells was updated to give more context.