Jewish first-year students who observe religious laws forbidding the use of electricity during the sabbath will be housed in Matthews and Hurlbut Halls next year, where they can use metal keys to enter side doors, housing officials said last week.
Under the plan, observant students will use metal keys during the sabbath, which runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, to enter the alternate entrances.
During the rest of the week, those doors will be alarmed and all students will use electronic card keys at the main entrances, according to Eric C. Engel, facilities manager for Harvard Yard.
Rabbi Sally Finestone, acting director of Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel, said all members of the class of 1997 were sent letters earlier this week asking them to contact Hillel if they cannot use the electronic card keys on the sabbath.
The plan is billed as a solution to the escort program offered to observant Jewish first-years this year, in which escorts would open doors for the students during limited hours of the sabbath, according to Finestone.
Some students interviewed yesterday said that although the plan is better than the escort program, it has the negative effect of segregating observant students.
"I don't think it's a good solution at all because I don't think they should segregate observant Jews into little clusters on campus," said Martin Lebwohl '96.
Lebwohl said housing observant students in only two dorms would limit social interaction and create "pockets of the [Jewish] community."
But many other students, as well as administrators, said the plan is the best feasible solution and that the dormitories are large enough to adequately intersperse the students.
"We are attentive to the fact that students might perceive this as placing students in specific dorms, but we are putting these students, at their request, in dorms with alternative access," said Dean of Freshmen Elizabeth S. Nathans.
Engel also said he feels the students will not be segregated under the new plan.
"A dozen [observant] students placed from the top to bottom of Hurlbut and top to bottom of Matthews would not create the feeling that these students were being clustered," Engel said.
Hillel Chair Jeremy A. Dauber '95 said the plan is the best solution for the time being, but that he hopes it is only temporary.
"It's a difficult situation because everybody feels they are being put upon--the University because it must ensure security and the students because they feel they are being singled out," he said.
Finestone said the plan is the result of a year of discussion with Engel, Nathans, orthodox Rabbi Harry Sinoff, Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, other officials and all religiously observant first-years