Baker Rooming Review
Last semester, as Baker House President, I reformed the rooming process at Baker House. At MIT, the student government in each dorm controls their own rooming process. Baker’s process was in disarray; there was no written document of how rooming was performed. Information on how the system worked was passed from student to student as hearsay. This led to considerable uncertainty and stress among students, especially among incoming freshmen. In addition, there was room for improvement.
Reforming the rooming process was part of my campaign platform when running for office. Before I started, I sent the dorm a rough timeline of the steps I intended to follow. I also invite residents to comment on the goals of the rooming process, how they though the system currently worked, and to submit suggestions.
My first step was to fully understand how the system operated at the time. I started by first contacting all of the key stakeholders (the rooming committee, the house manager, central housing) to set up individual meetings to understand the role each played and to collect their suggestions. As the same time, I thought about what the goals of our system should be. For example, the system should be welcoming to “shy” students. I also did some research at the library to read about best practices at other schools.
I then built a two-column document. On the left, was how the system worked currently, and on the right were suggested changes. I first circulated the document among the key stakeholders to get their feedback. Next, I held a House meeting to collect comments from the general population of the dorm. At the meeting, I went through the document, explained the rationale of the suggestions, and listened to their feedback.
I then took all of the comments and produced a revised proposal. I scheduled another house meeting for an up or down vote on the proposal. It passed unanimously. The document is now on the Baker website, so everyone now knows how the system works. The process that I followed was based on the procedure set out by the US Administrative Procedures Act for establishing federal regulation. I think that a long multi-stakeholder is the best for complicated changes, especially when it’s important that all stakeholders are involved. It’s certainly not appropriate for everything, as it is not very agile, but it was best here.