In a bid to increase student diversity, house masters yesterday announced a plan whose main provision would set aside one-quarter of the spots in participating houses for random assignment in the freshman housing lottery.
The proposal, formally released by the students' and masters' Committee on House Life (COHL), marks a major break from policies in place since the late 1960s which emphasize student choice in selecting houses.
Under the plan, which has been approved by the 13 masters, participating houses will experimentally set aside 25 percent of their space for random assignment of rising sophomores. The other 75 percent would be assigned according to the current system of choice and lottery.
So far, six houses have agreed to participate in the experimental lottery, masters said. All spots in those houses that choose not to try the plan will be assigned using the regular procedures.
The plan represents only a tentative proposal, said COHL member and Quincy House Co-Master Rosa D. Shinagel. However, it is a serious attempt to address what many masters have felt is a growing problem of polarization in some houses. That polarization is made worse by students' belief in house stereotypes, masters said.
The masters' push to boost diversity derives from concerns raised last spring. In March, the Standing Committee on Athletics (SCA) sparked controversy when it suggested placingquotas on the number of varsity athletes who couldlive in each house.
The recommendations of the committee, chairedby Leverett House Master John H. Dowling '57,represented a response to the widely varyingnumbers of athletes in different houses. Athleteslast year made up 54 percent of Kirkland House and32 percent of Eliot, but only 5 percent of Adamsand Dunster Houses.
The proposal to limit athletes' choices in thefreshman lottery, released prematurely, wasdrowned by the opposition of students and masterswho said it unfairly singled out athletes withoutfully addressing the underlying question of theimportance and quality of student diversity at theCollege.
This new five-page proposal is more measuredattempt to deal with the issue. In the plan,administrators stated, "The Masters, the Dean ofthe College and the Dean of the Faculty of Artsand Sciences believe strongly that the diversityprovided by the College admissions policy is notonly desirable but also essential to theundergraduate experience at Harvard."
The report also recommends giving masters theoption of placing stricter limits on gender ratiosin incoming sophomore classes. Currently, theratio of males to females in each house'ssophomore class must be between 1 to 1 and 2 to 1.The recommendations would allow masters to bringthose parameters closer to the campus-wide ratioof 1.3 to 1 if a pattern of imbalance arose.
The masters also suggested ending what itcalled a three-year-old "experiment" of givingfreshmen their lottery numbers before requiringthem to list their top three house choices. Priorto 1986, students chose their roommates andselected houses before entering the lottery.
Yesterday's plan suggests returning to thatmethod, which proponents said they hoped wouldreduce student anxiety and efforts to outguess thelottery system.
Students were mixed in their initial responseto the plan. Undergraduate Council Chairperson KenE. Lee '89 and Residential Committee ChairpersonDana M. Bush '91 said they agreed that diversityis important but disagreed with the masters'method for dealing with the issue.
The council will discuss the matter beforeissuing a response to the plan. Masters andadministrators said they welcomed student input,emphasizing that yesterday's proposal is onlytentative. Any changes must be approved by Dean ofthe College L. Fred Jewett '57 by January
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