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No More Master's Choice


By Nicholas Lemann

The Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life took a little of the pain out of freshman year this week when it adopted a new House assignment plan that will operate strictly according to personal preference and sex ratios.

In past years, freshmen have spent a lot of their time each spring figuring out what kind of class rank and concentration mix will most please the housing computer, going to interviews at Houses, and desperately trying to worm their way onto masters' choice lists.

But those days are apparently over now; CHUL eliminated rank, concentration, secondary school background and master's choice as criteria in determining housing.

Freshmen will also now rank all 12 residential Houses in order of preference, as opposed to last year's ranking of only five choices, so that fewer people will be assigned to their last choice.

The CHUL decision came partly in response to the howls of protest freshmen raised last year after House assignments came out. About 250 students were assigned to Radcliffe Houses against their will last year, and an unprecedented 15 per cent of the freshmen were assigned to Houses they did not list on their applications.

CHUL considered setting up a completely random House assignment system, but decided to include student choice because students feel there is an important difference between Harvard and Radcliffe Houses.

Mitchell L. Wolfe '74, chairman of CHUL's subcommittee on the House system, said CHUL decided on the new assignment process in order to simplify the application system, increase the importance of student choice, and eliminate the "trauma" of House assignment.

However, Bruce Collier, research associate at the Office of Tests, said CHUL eliminated the old criteria because they didn't matter much anyway in the way assignments turned out.

Collier is probably right, but it would have been hard to convince many freshmen last May that the computer, with its mysterious selection method, didn't have some special grudge against them. Nobody is very likely to mourn the passing of the master's choice.

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