Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57's decision to randomize the housing lottery for the class of 1999 is highly problematic, and its implications for both the House system and the College are deeply troubling.
first, neither the administration nor the House Masters have demonstrated any attention to students opinion. The Undergraduate Council has found that 81 percent of students oppose randomization in its recent poll; the Independent survey found an even higher number opposed; and over 200 students signed a letter asking Jewett, incoming Dean Harry Lewis, and the house masters not to Insititute this plan. None of this seems to mean anything to the administration, which has a foolishly single-minded commitment to diversity.
While exposing students to a variety of life experiences is a worthy goal, there is no evidence that it will be furthered by randomization--people will continue to befriend those who are like themselves. In fact, representation of ethnic minorities will be compromised under the Jewett plan, as their members will be dispersed, depriving them of the ability to easily band together and thus maximize their impact on other students' lives. Such a diaspora can only hinder the "learning from each other" that Jewett claims to promote.
While the tendency to manage students life without students input is disturbing, perhaps more so is the timing of the announcement. Jewett, of course, is a lame duck who will retire this summer; he should not be making a decision that will affect the College long after he has left. His doing so leaves no one to take responsibility for this action, and cynically protects Lewis' well--cultivated reputation for concern for students needs.
Furthermore, effecting this change during reading period ensures a minimum of student outrage. Had the announcement been made in April, when it was promised, Jewett and Lewis could be sure of an outcry; now that students are preoccupied with exams and the summer, there will be little or none.
Jewett's actions in thus detrimental to more than just House life. It reflects a growing administrative tendency towards a patronizing, "Harvard knows best" attitude in decisions concerning students. Perhaps the return of parietal rules in next? The college has an obligation to pay attention to the students and their wants and needs, whether in housing or other concerns. The administration can begin to demonstrate its commitment to that duty by reversing the randomization decision. Benhamin H. Torrance '95
The writer is the founder and coordinator of the Coalition Against Randomization.