Masters Leave Fate Of Lottery To Jewett
Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 will likely decide the future of the housing lottery as both house masters and students remain deadlocked on the issue of whether and how to reform it, masters said last night.
Masters said that a heated three hour discussion with the dean on Wednesday failed to unify them, leaving Jewett without a clear mandate for specific changes.
"The masters are as divided on this as the students are," said Currier House Co-Master Holly Davidson.
But most masters said last night that three months of intense discussion of the lottery has not gone to waste. Unlike last year--when Jewett postponed a decision on a proposal to randomize 25 percent of the spaces in some houses in order to give time for further review--this year, masters said, the dean has a good sense of where individual masters and students stand on the various lottery options.
"I think that something will probably get decided by the dean," Adams House Master Robert J. Kiely said. He added that Jewett would be careful to favor a proposal with broad appeal.
The dean said earlier this week that although he does not yet favor a specific proposal, he wants at least a modest change. He could not be reached for comment last night.
Debate about changes to the house assignment process began in 1987 when many grew concerned that the present choice-based system threatens the College's committment to diversity and created several houses with disproportionate populations.
But despite an extra year of discussion, masters said last night that opinions among them still range from supporting the present system to advoctingtotal randomization.
Earlier this week, the residential committee ofthe Undergraduate Council also concluded itsmeeting without reaching a consensus.
But for the sake of political expedience,representatives of both groups said they wouldlikely end up compromising. Masters who have fromthe beginning been averse to any change agreedthat if it were necessary to alter the system,they would prefer a modest proposal. And most saidthe student suggestion of "non-ordered choice"seemed the most acceptable.
Under non-ordered choice, students would berandomly assigned to one of three or four housesthey list on the lottery form in no order.
"My preference is still to leave it alone, butif it came down to something political, likenon-ordered choice, I would go along with it,"said Kiely, a long-time opponent of change in thelottery system.
"I don't want randomization--I'm afraid that ifyou forced homogeneity in the houses, they wouldbecome nothing more than dormitories," Davidsonsaid. "But I don't think that modified changeswould hurt the flavor of the houses. I thinknon-ordered choice is a good option in thatsense," she said.
Davidson added that while there are stillextreme opinions all sides, the majority of thehouse masters would not oppose non-ordered choice.
Mechanical intervention, which involves placingquotas on certain variables in the computerprogram used for assignment, raises questions ofexactly what areas would require caps, somemasters said.
Other middle of the road proposals includerandomization of 50 percent or more of the spacesin the lottery.
But Winthrop House Master James A. Davis saidhe "wouldn't bet the ranch on that one," addingthat most seem to favor total randomization over50 percent.
A lack of statistical information about theeffects of these other plans has limiteddiscussion, masters said. A study two weeks ago byDean K. Whitla, director of the Office ofInstructional Research and Development, indicatedthat although a non-ordered choice system allowingthree choices would significantly lower the numberof students receiving their first-choice houses,about 90 percent would still receive one of theirchoices.
According to Davis, non-ordered choice wouldalso allow experimentation over the next fewyears, an option that a totally random systemwould preclude.
"There seemed to be a lot of consensus that allother things equal, a plan readjusted would be alot better than one that wouldn't beadjustable--the more flexible the plan, thebetter," Davis said.
But most masters emphasized that the reason allparties have been so slow to make a decision isthat even the non-ordered choice compromise hasnot generated overwhelming support.
"There are a lot of people that agree that itis a pretty good compromise, but we all realizethat it is a compromise," Lowell House MasterWilliam H. Bossert '59 said. "Non-ordered choicedoes not give us either maximum choice or totallydiverse houses.