To put it simply, I believe a closer analysis of the Neighborhood Review Committee reports will give a lot of insight into the recent actions the College has taken.

First, let’s examine the claim that “The 2009 survey data on Neighborhood housing make clear that students are dissatisfied.” That is from the Interim Report of the Neighborhood Review Committee, October 2009 [1]. This report described what the NRC found in May 2009 when they surveyed the student population. First of all, only 30% of the on-campus student body took the survey. That is not a lot. The report also says that more info was taken from past surveys, etc.

The Final Report of the Neighborhood Review Committee Part Two, April 27, 2010, notes that “[student surveys] added nuance to the most vocal complaints [about the neighborhood system]: some student dissatisfaction could be attributed to factors other than the neighborhood system and a substantial proportion of students believed the overall goals of the system were worthy” (1) [3].

The report continues, “Indeed, during the public forums of the fall, the NRC did not hear as much public criticism about the Neighborhood system as some of us imagined we would hear.

The comparative lack of criticism this academic year does not necessarily mean that the dissatisfaction had gone away or that many students were suddenly pleased with the Neighborhood system as a whole or with their individual Neighborhood. But it does suggest that what had been identified as dissatisfaction with the Neighborhoods was a complicated phenomenon” (1) [3].

Let’s take a closer look at the data to get a better understanding of these nuances. The class of 2009 was the last class to be under both the free-agency system and the neighborhood system, even though they were only in free-agency for their freshmen year. (Keep in mind that this is only the 5th year the neighborhood system has been around. It was instituted 2006-2007 [2].) They got the worst of both worlds–the un-unified freshmen experience and the lack of choice from the neighborhood system. At the time, they were randomly assigned neighborhoods, and penalized for trying to switch.

In May 2009, at the end of the Class of 2009’s senior year, it is unsurprising that many would be unhappy–or whatever number decided to respond to the survey. They went from a system of freedom and choice to one with none. The classes following them were similarly randomly assigned to neighborhoods and penalized for switching. Is it clear why there would be unhappiness with the system?

Fast forward to the current day. The class of 2013 was the last class to be randomly assigned a neighborhood. Members of the class of 2014, in their pick groups, will be allowed to choose what neighborhood they will live in. I am not sure exactly how this process will work.

Additionally, last year the college decided not to penalize upperclassmen for switching neighborhoods. I do not know the specifics of how this works, but I don’t think it is done by group. I believe individuals switch in and then form a group, but again, I am not sure. (I only know individuals who have switched.)

There are two ways of looking at these two changes in the neighborhood system. The first is that they harm the system, as David Kane believes. I believe the opposite, however. Because of space limitations on campus, every bed MUST be filled; aren’t the neighborhoods going to be stronger if the people living in any given house actually want to live there? I think so. How is arbitrarily placing people in places they don’t necessarily want to live and keeping them there going to promote strong communities? It’s not. I think if people want to live in the neighborhoods they are in, the system may change as a result of that.

It will be interesting to take a survey in May of 2014 to see what the classes of ’14, ’15, and ’16 think of the newer, improved neighborhood system. I imagine they will be much happier than the current generation–which I believe is not as unhappy as some may think.




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