House masters today will propose the most significant changes to the freshman lottery since the late 1960s, masters and administrators said late last week.
The masters' plan, which will be presented this afternoon to a student-faculty committee in charge of house life at University Hall, outlines fundamental changes in how the composition of each house is determined. The plan specifically attempts to increase randomness in freshman house assignment--and hence student diversity--while preserving student choice and house identities, said Assistant Dean for the House System Thomas A. Dingman '67.
Currently, freshman rooming groups receive lottery numbers and submit their top three house choices to the College. A computer then numerically assigns the rooming groups to one of their designated houses. Students who cannot be fit into any of their chosen houses because of space limitations are randomly assigned to remaining, still vacant houses.
Masters would not comment publicly on details of the plan last week but said it related to concerns raised last March about diversity in the houses, specifically over dramatically uneven proportions of varsity athletes within them.
"Basically, it's a continuation of the discussion last year about whether...a house should limit [its population on the basis of] diversity or gender," said Dingman. Dingman serves as spokes person for the masters, who met with him last Wednesday.
Last spring, amid a routine administrative review of the lottery system that occurs every three to four years, a storm of controversy arose when the Standing Committee on Athletics (SCA) recommended limiting the number of varsity athletes in each house to preserve student diversity within them.
At that time, the SCA reported that athletes constituted 54 percent of Kirkland and 32 percent of Eliot House respectively, and only 5 percent of Adams and Dunster Houses.
The committee suggested keeping the proportionof athletes between 9 and 27 percent of eachhouse's population.
That proposal met with a torrent of studentopposition. Opponents said quotas would unfairlysingle out athletes while forcing an unnecessarymodification of the system.
Last spring and early this fall, the masterscommittee took up the issue of diversity withinthe houses. "I think the majority of houses feeleach house should be a microcosm of the college,not a perfect microcosm, but [enough of one soresidents may enjoy the wide range of students atthe University]," said Leverett House Master JohnH. Dowling '59, who also chaired the SCA lastyear.
"Many felt the SCA quota system was not thebest way to deal with the situation," he said,"What we were trying to do was introduce morerandomness into the whole selection process."
That intention was supported by a recent surveyof undergraduates that indicates that more than 40percent of students feel more randomness wouldimprove the lottery system, Dowling said.
The proposal to be revealed today attempts tomeet that goal and has gained the general approvalof the 13 house masters. "I think the proposalmakes a lot of sense; it has a lot offlexibility," Dowling said. However he said theproposed changes may not affect every house.
Committee on House Life member Dana M. Bush '91said yesterday that she was introduced to theproposal 10 days ago while planning the meeting'sagenda. She said she did not know details of theproposal but said her student committee's initialresponse was negative.
The last major change to the house assignmentsystem at Harvard occurred in the late 1960s whena completely random assignment system was replacedby the current one of lottery and choice.
Even earlier, from the house system's foundingin the 1930s until the random system adapted inthe early 1960s, masters personally selected housemembers.
At Yale, students have no choice in chosingtheir college--equivalent to a Harvard house--andare randomly assigned before their freshman year
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