MIT to stop admitting freshmen beginning in 2001

A little context: In late 1997 a freshman in an MIT fraternity drank himself to death. In the firestorm of press that followed, MIT President Vest declared (without consulting even the faculty) that all freshmen would be forced to live on campus starting in 2001. Now I consider my fellow fraternity brothers to be a pretty responsible bunch all-in-all, and we were all pretty pissed about the decision. When a few months later a Simmons student was hospitalized for excessive drinking at an MIT dorm party and the administration did nothing, we saw it as a gross hypocrisy. Given the recent death however, it looked like we couldn't really make that argument.

That sounded like a challenge.

MIT to stop admitting freshmen beginning in 2001

Voodoo Newswire, 10/05/98
By Bradley Rhodes

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.(Voodoo) -- In light of continued incidents involving underage drinking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the school has announced that starting in 2001 it will no longer admit freshmen to its undergraduate program.

"If we could completely control the actions of our students we would, but at this time the elimination of freshman year is the only way to completely protect our charges," announced Charles Vest, President of MIT, to an astonished faculty on Monday. "Recent events have made it clear that no university system can control the actions of its students, on or off campus. We must start thinking about protecting our students in terms of not having them."

The school would continue to accept transfer students in their sophomore year. However, students under the age of 21 would be housed in foster homes in the greater Boston area. Vest said the foster home system is an excellent model for the future of MIT housing. "Foster homes provide a nurturing environment while still maintaining control and strict discipline for our underage students," said Vest.

MIT's action comes after a series of highly publicized alcohol related incidents, the most recent involving the hospitalization of a 20-year-old Simmons College student after excessive drinking at an MIT dorm party last Saturday. The MIT administration has also been under harsh criticism for their lack of responsibility for students' actions since the death of Scott S. Krueger, a freshman member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity who drank himself to death during a pledge party. After the death the administration moved to house all freshmen on campus, but recent incidents in dormitories have shown that the housing move did not go far enough.

President Vest downplayed faculty concerns that it would be harder to draw transfer students away from other universities once they have been integrated into student life elsewhere. "At this point, I want to reiterate that students are and will be important elements of our campus life," said Vest. "We do not expect all the departments to go through this transition without some help, financial and otherwise, from the Institute. This is not a guarantee that every department will survive as it currently exists, but it is not at all clear that they would if we continued with the current system unchanged."