College Panels Vote to Limit Size Of Block Groups

In a more that would essentially preserve the status quo for the housing lottery in the near future, the committees on House and College Life voted Tuesday to reduce the maximum student blocking group size from 20 to 16.

The vote heads off--for now--potential steps toward randomization, which was endorsed by the Report on the Structure of Harvard College earlier this semester and by several house masters.

The change in maximum blocking group size, which must be approved by Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, would have no effect on the overwhelming majority of students entering the housing lottery, since very few blocks are larger than 16.

"This change would have only affected one group in the last five years," Justin C. Label '97, a committee member, said. "There was one [group] of 18 in 1990."

House masters in November endorsed a plan that would have reduced the maximum blocking size to eight as a step towards making the composition of the houses more random.


By a vote of 10 to 2, with one abstention, the masters also said they could accept randomized housing, though seven said they also could support the current system.

Label billed the 16-person maximum as a compromise between the masters' view and students' desire to keep the present 20-person upper limit.

Associate Dean of Harvard College Thomas A. Dingman '67 said the change in the maximum blocking group could be perceived as a small move toward randomization in housing.

"There wasn't going to be randomization this year anyway," Dingman said. "But I think the masters and students had in mind that if we move on to randomization, we would have a number for blocking groups that wouldn't change."

The committees also voted Tuesday to suggest that students be allowed to list six choices, not four, on their housing forms.

The proposal will go to the house masters for discussion.

"About eighty-three percent of students get one of their choices with the system of four," said Justin C. Label '97, chair of the Undergraduate Council's Student Affairs Committee and a participant at the meeting. "With six, we can just about guarantee it. This plan would broaden choices and broaden diversity."

If the masters accept the six-option plan, they may even discard calls for complete randomization, though Label expects the debate to continue.

"The expectation is that they will think this plan is acceptable and better," Label said. "But we still think that they will push for randomization."

Dingman agreed the debate is not likely to stop, despite the 16-person maximum compromise.

"I have talked to a number of the masters recently," he said. "They are not of a uniform opinion, but it is the sentiment that randomization would be an improvement.

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