When first-year blocking groups are assigned to their respective houses, the placement process will be completely random, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 said yesterday.
In past years, computer controls ensured that the houses had an even balance of gender, and these controls will now be removed entirely. In addition, no controls will be added for race, ethnicity or any other characteristic in the housing assignment process, Lewis said.
Under the previous system of non-ordered choice, the computer placement program attempted to establish an equal gender ratio.
"We just decided to take the controls off because we want to do it randomly," Lewis said in an interview, noting that the decision to remove the gender controls was actually made by his predecessor, L. Fred Jewett '57, at the same time he made the decision to switch to random placement in the houses.
Lewis added that any imbalance resulting from the change would be corrected by the forces of probability.
"At most, one-third of the house could change," Lewis said. "If there did turn out to be a lack of proportionality, it would be corrected the following year."
But the report co-authored by Lewis which recommended the change to randomized housing assignment, the Report on the Structure of Harvard College, recommended that gender restrictions remain in place.
"The current system of assignment of students to Houses should be replaced by one based on random assignment of roommate groups at the end of the freshman year, with controls on gender rations enforced as at present," the report read.
House masters contacted last night said they knew little about the proposed change, and most said they were unsure about the effect it could have.
"That's news to me I didn't realize that was an element of [randomization]," Winthrop House Master Paul D. Hanson said last night. "I'd like to have as close to the fifty-fifty ratio as possible."
Hanson said he would like to see some statistics giving the likelihood of a balanced gender mix in each house before he made up his mind about the proposal.
Eliot House Master Stephen A. Mitchell, who said that the gender ratio has been important for many years, said he had not heard about the change either.
As long as randomization is in place, Mitchell said he would be likely to support fully randomizing the system, including the removal of the ratio.
Mitchell said that without the computer control, however, the administration might be trusting students to put together diverse blocking groups.
At least one master, Cabot House Master Jurij Striedter did not express concern.
"We have a very good gender balance and racial balance," Striedter said. "Even if that is not in the computer, I do not think that for the moment at least, we need to worry.
The Future of RandomizationRandomization was presented last fall as a solution to what administrators saw as a lack of diversity in the houses.
Dean Stands by Housing PlanDean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 has denied the informal request of an Undergraduate Council executive to reassess
Lewis Agrees to Publish First-Year Housing Assignments on InternetWhen housing results are announced tomorrow for first-years, students won't need to call their friends to find out where they
Gender Council Has First Meeting of YearThe group created by Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 to advise him on women's issues last week
University Behind In Woman AdmitsHarvard continues to admit fewer women than men and lags behind most other Ivy League schools in equalizing the sex
College to Tighten Gender Ratio in HousesThe Committee on House Life voted to balance the sexes in upper class houses by tightening gender restrictions in the