An overview of progress on the room-assignment and move-in design effort.

Chancellor Cindy Barnhart and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson embarked on an exercise with student leaders and house teams to consider ways to improve MIT’s room-assignment and move-in processes. Starting in fall 2018, they met with students, visited houses for study breaks, talked to The Tech, shared updates with all students, and engaged the MIT community in a faculty panel.

The following FAQ is intended to answer questions about the impetus behind the exercise, the exercise itself, and next steps. Click here to go to the bottom of this page for links to relevant emails, documents, and slides.

1. Why do we think that room-assignment and move-in processes need to be improved?
The exercise responds to concerns that students have shared over the years. Additionally, MIT’s Corporation, through DSL’s Visiting Committee, has called for the room-assignment process to be evaluated and improved. As far back as the 1999 Bacow Report and as recently as the 2017 DSL Visiting Committee meetings, questions have arisen about whether the room-assignment process is consistent with the Institute’s values and goals.

DSL’s own concerns about the process were heightened in many conversations with members of the MIT community. Some students shared painful experiences of rejection, isolation, stress, and a lack of personal agency. House teams reported being troubled by aspects of the room-assignment and move-in processes. And families have shared concerns about the added stress MIT’s room-assignment process causes to incoming first-year students.

These stories were underscored by a wide variety of data:

  • Around 25 percent of respondents to the 2017 Student Quality of Life survey (administered every four years in the spring to all students) reported that their residence hall’s in-house room-assignment process was a source of stress.
  • In the 2018 Orientation survey (administered annually in September), about 40 percent of 250 survey respondents described the process negatively.
  • And in the 2018 First-Year Residential Experience (Post-REX) survey (administered annually in October), more than 40 percent of over 500 respondents described in-house room selection negatively, with students making clear and pointed comments such as “students should not rank other students;” the in-house room-assignment process is “rigged,” “unfair,” “arbitrary,” and “not transparent;” and the in-house room-assignment process is perceived as “stressful,” “overwhelming,” “chaotic,” “confusing,” or “forced.”

Together with the concerns voiced by community members and students, these data persuaded MIT leaders that these processes could be better.

2. What prompted the design exercise?
Rather than impose a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach, students have been engaged to develop creative ideas for addressing these challenges through a design exercise. Their enhancements will be more effective with buy-in from many stakeholders. In emails to house leaders (which you can read here and here), MIT leaders lay out the rationale for how the design exercise can help improve room-assignment and move-in processes. Here are a couple of key points from those messages:

  • Each house was asked to design a system that adheres to two requirements:
    • Upper-level students will not preference or select who will live on their floor/entry/community; and
    • New students will not be forced to move from the room assigned to them over the summer.
  • At least one design had to fulfill these two requirements because they reflected key concerns that motivated this exercise. Students were also encouraged to share additional ideas for improvements unrelated to the requirements.

3. Who is responsible for addressing these concerns? And what happens next?
Senior administrators are responsible for creating a positive student experience on campus and addressing concerns when they arise. Given MIT's commitment to shared governance, administrators share this responsibility with student leaders, faculty, house teams, and staff.

Students shared draft designs with stakeholders at a March 2 workshop where participants engaged in productive conversations about the pros and cons of change. Following the workshop, Chancellor Barnhart and Dean Nelson met individually with houses to discuss implanting their ideas. Every house’s solution to the concerns the design exercise was created to address is unique, and each house is finalizing their action implementation plan for making positive change to their process in the fall. Later this summer, each community’s individual plan will be posted to this website.

Addtional Materials