What’s Happening at Senior House and What Can I Do?

From a Member of the Senior House Community:

For those who have not heard, MIT administration has led the students to believe that the entire fate of their dormitory is currently hanging in the balance.  As a result of last year’s “survey data” fiasco, the house was denied freshman and put through a “turnaround” process.  This has involved countless hours on behalf of the students, preparing for and going to meetings, in order to “save the house”.  I can not describe the level of stress and anxiety this has caused the students, as they literally have spent a year fearing for the existence of their home.

Just a few weeks before roast, the administration recieved allegations of unhealthy behavior within the house, causing them to cancel roast.  The house leadership had a meeting with the president, in which the president expressed concern that the “turnaround” was a failure, and the house should just be shut down (which is what he initially wanted to do last year).  Not all members of the administration involved in this process agrees with him on this, but he has the final say.

I believe that kicking the current students out of senior house and denying them freshman for a second year would be detrimental to senior house residents, detrimental to those freshman that would choose senior house, and detrimental to the entire MIT community.  For this reason, I am asking if you would be willing to write a letter to the MIT administration, detailing the value of the senior house community, as you see it.

If you choose to write a letter, please make it only positive.  Do not attack the MIT administration, or call into question what they have done so far.  As of yet, no decision has been made, so we have a lot more to gain by being polite, and concerned, than we do by being angry and judgemental. This is very important: you must be viewed as a victim and not an assailant.

In my view, senior house is a unique community, in that it welcomes all. And as a result, it ends up attracting those who do not feel welcomed by society at large.  From the outside, this gives the impression of a group of misfits, non-conformists, and ne’r-do-wells.  But in reality, this is a group that needs more support than your average MIT students, and I think the president is having a hard time seeing that.  He is having a hard time viewing the students as people struggling with real problems, and not just a group of rebellious teens who want to engage in “unhealthy behaviour” and not follow the law. He is having a hard time viewing senior house as a place where people struggling with these issues find help and support in their friends, and not a place where innocent freshman are corrupted and turned into delinquent reprobates.  I think your stories of how senior house supported you, and your subsequent success, might help change his mind about this.

And, finally, I would also like to say that I dont think senior house is perfect, and there are things that could be done better.  I, personally, think that unhealthy behaviour has occured in the house in the past, and is probably still happening at some level (trust me, its nothing like what it once was), and I would very much like to see that change.  But, that is certainly not a problem they were going to fix in a year, and it is certainly not bad enough to warrant destroying all that is good about the house to fix it.  If seniour house wasn’t such an amazing community I would think differently, but it is assuredly worth fixing rather than replacing.

If you choose to write a polite letter, please do so ASAP.  We don’t know when the decision is coming, but its either this week or next.  Letters can go to:

President Reif: reif@mit.edu
Provost Schmidt: maschmid@mit.edu
Chancellor Barnhardt: cbarnhar@mit.edu
Dean of Student Life Nelson: nelsonsm@mit.edu

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UPDATE: From Another Member of the Senior House Community: (May 10, 2017)

Painting a good picture of Senior House is important, but we must describe WHY Senior House is NECESSARY for the current residents given the reputation of “unhealthy and dangerous behavior.”

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