Freedom Of Choice


THE MAJORITY'S peculiar exercise in social engineering seems to undermine its avowed intent. While a random housing lottery seeks to promote greater tolerance and to improve social harmony, it would in practice remove existing support systems--checks on persecution--and limit individual choice.

Though the Houses' profiles are far from perfect, they do at least allow for groups within a large, often impersonal institution to construct small communities of their own with distinct identities. Diversity, despite arguments to the contrary, does not depend mainly on integration; in fact, it is strengthened by cultural differences.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that, say, 8 per cent Blacks instead of 5 per cent Blacks in a given House will increase racial sensitivity. The same House members who currently avoid contact with minorities (or "jocks" or "wonks" for that matter) will not likely reach out because of a minute percentage increase. Sensitivity cannot be legislated.

If the efficiency of the present lottery system is at stake (only 80 per cent of students now get one of their three choices), then perhaps schemes to reform the lottery but preserve a significant margin of choice should be considered. But a random lottery simply enforces one more decision on students who have only advisory power at best in administration and education here.