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Phenonmenon of social relationships at MIT

Column/Joseph L. Shipman

Warning: this column is probably sexist. I apologize in advance for it.

When I was a freshman, I complained once that the poor ratio of women to men at MIT caused me frustration. I was given a lot of advice about this.

Some of it was personal, which I will pass over as irrelevant (read "embarrassing"). There were two major suggestions: "Try Wellesley (or Simmons, etc.)", and "Wait till you're a junior."

I rejected the first piece of advice as soon as I discovered that I greatly preferred MIT women. They were smarter, more mature, more interesting, and closer. I did not take the second suggestion very seriously.

That was a long time ago. I have since learned that "wait till you're a junior" describes a sociological phenomenon at MIT. I would have probably found sophomore year less frustrating if I had thought more about that advice.

Most MIT students, like most of the rest of the human race, tend to form monogamous relationships with members of the opposite sex. When any sex forms a large majority of the population, some frustration is bound to arise.

But why should freshmen wait until they are juniors? As much as most freshmen hate to admit it, upperclassmen are generally more mature, well-adjusted and experienced than freshmen are. When a freshwoman enters MIT, she is beset by males from all directions. It is natural that the upperclassmen will be more successful than the neophytes. Although there are many exceptions, the trend is there.

And why junior year? Both juniors and seniors are better prospects for women than sophomores and freshmen are. Seniors, however, will graduate soon and therefore are not good prospects for a relationship.

There is also the self-perpetuating element. When a male senior who started dating a freshman girl in his junior year graduates, he leaves an unattached female junior. This further increases the pool of eligible females for male juniors and seniors.

I hope this doesn't sound too chauvinistic or unfeeling. I am merely describing a phenomenon which I have observed over several years. It is basic sociology; there are exceptions, but as long as MIT is largely male, the pattern will continue.

So am I endorsing the advice I was given as a freshman? Heck, no! My advice to male underclassmen is to "Go for it!" It is stupid to let statistical considerations deter you. But to the majority of frustrated freshmen, however, the slogan "wait till you're a junior" may provide some solace.