Hoping to improve student involvement in House life, the College will halve the maximum size of blocking groups to eight from the current cap of 16, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 confirmed Wednesday.
Lewis' decision, scheduled to take effect with the Class of 2003, will significantly limit the number of first-year students who may "block" together and enter the College's housing lottery as a single group.
The move is the biggest change to House policy since the 1995 decision known as randomization, which eliminated all student preference in upper-class housing selection.
Since then, the College has seen the number of large blocking groups balloon, leading to concerns among House Masters that students were using large blocking groups as a way to insulate themselves from involvement in House communities.
Also, many Houses have struggled to even gender ratios among their populations, which have become unbalanced due in part to mostly-male or mostly-female blocking groups.
As a result, Lewis announced his intention to review blocking group sizes over the summer at a meeting of the Committee on House Life (COHL) last semester. Although Lewis would not offer an indication of his intentions then, many Masters said they anticipated a reduction in group size.
And in an e-mail message yesterday, Lewis said he and the Masters noticed that most large blocking groups are not entirely comprised of close friends--in particular, "the 'hinged' blocked phenomenon" in which one large blocking group is comprised of two sub-groups that are linked by a few common friends.
And despite his professed sensitivity to retaining friendship groups created during students' first years, Lewis said the smaller groups offer adequate opportunity to block with close friends.
"Eight is actually not a small number for a friendship group," Lewis wrote in the e-mail message. "It's large enough to accommodate most close friendship groups, including groups involving both men and women, but small enough to ensure that students from one block will get to know other students in the House and to enable the gender ratios to be well balanced everywhere in the future."
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