IN essence, the masters' new plan tries to balance diversity against free choice. But these two ideals, as we should all know by now, are contradictory and unworkable in tandem. The plan, by trying to satisfy both students who want to choose where they live, and administrators who want diverse houses, will end up satisfying no one.
More importantly, setting aside 25 percent of the houses for random assignment will act as a blow to free choice. Students are rational, mature actors, and should be trusted to make their own decisions about where they live--the same rights adults outside Harvard have. Denying freshmen this right of free action is to treat them as irresponsible children who cannot understand the consequences of their own decisions.
Instead, the administration would like to try a little social engineering--mixing a few jocks here, a few minorities there, a few geeks everywhere--to produce the ideal diverse community envisioned by such visionaries as Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 and Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III. Who is to say that diversity is the ultimate good to be achieved through residency, especially at the price of sacrificing individual autonomy?
THE idea for this plan originated out of the masters' concern for the high proportion of athletes in Kirkland House; they pretend this measure would be a solution. But how is diversity being defined? Are we seeking racial diversity, economic diversity, intellectual diversity, extracurricular diversity or social diversity? And why is it automatically assumed that a measure of randomness will produce the right distributions?
Completely randomizing house assignments--which will probably be the eventual result of changing the free choice system--will homogenize the Harvard community. The diversity of the undergraduate student body is produced by the individuality of its discrete units: the houses. By implementing a random lottery, not only house character--but the diversity of the undergraduate community itself--will be destroyed.