Members of the Class of 1999 will have no choice in their assignment of Houses, according to Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, who out-lined his commitment to total randomization yesterday in a letter to house masters, the Committee on College Life and The Crimson.
After a years of debate and indecision on the issues of choice in housing and diversity, the College will implement a plan in which students will continue to choose roommates and blocking groups of up to sixteen people. But the groups of up to sixteen people. But the groups will then be randomly assigned to houses "without any pre-determined order or pattern."
"I know it's not something that will get full endorsement," Jewett said in a telephone interview yesterday.
"The majority of students would probably prefer to continue to have choice, but I think that many of them also think that the houses should be even more diverse than they are now," Jewett said.
In his letter, Jewett wrote that the primary motivation behind his decision was his desire to increase the diversity of each of the house communities.
"The purpose of this change is to insure as much as possible that each House contains a broad-ranging and diverse community representing the various talents, strengths and backgrounds of the College population," Jewett wrote.
McKay Professor of Computer Science Harry R. Lewis, who will become dean of the College on July 1, echoed Jewett's defense of randomization.
The goals of randomization fit well with the College's educational goals, Lewis said yesterday, including "the importance of having students from a variety of backgrounds and interests, learning from each other."
"So much of the education of Harvard students comes from each other," Lewis added.
A major source of campus debate has been the ethnic diversity--or lack thereof--in various houses. The latest figures available from the College indicate that in 1992, the concentration of some ethnic groups was extremely unbalanced. For example, two unspecified houses had 17 and 13 percent Black populations, compared to 12 and 11 percent in 1989. In another house, the population of Black students was just four percent during both years.
In addition, administrators say they have given attention to so-called "jock-houses."
"When we found out [in the mid 1980s] that 90 percent of varsity athletes in three sports were in Kirkland House, we didn't think that was the best way to have the Harvard experience," said Quincy House Master Michael Shinagel.
Jewett emphasized that he did not mind the overabundance of certain groups in particular houses as much as certain houses' homogeneity.
"I'm not concerned where there are too many people [of a certain group], but more concerned with places with too few," Jewett said.
A secondary consideration, he added, was the "present focus on and anxiety about House choice in the spring."
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