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Valedictory address by one contented graduate

Column/Scott I. Chase

At the freshman picnic in September 1981, President Gray told us to look around at our fellow classmates: We would not assemble as a class again until graduation. When I look around today, where once there were a thousand faces, there are now a thousand compatriots, and many dear friends.

In the fall I will attend the University of California at Berkeley. The fact that I will be about as far from MIT as one can reasonably expect to be is purely a coincidence. MIT is a great place to be, in spite of the famed "fire-hose effect." I am glad I was here and am sorry that it is time to move on.

In looking back upon our time at MIT, I have discovered that many things have changed over the last four years.

The physical environment has changed. We have seen the dedication of 500 Memorial Drive (a.k.a. "Next House") and the new Athletic Center. We have seen the construction of Green House, uh, I mean Hall (a.k.a. "Sick House"), the EG&G Building (a.k.a. "Egg Building"), the Arts and Media Technology Building (a.k.a. "The Bathroom"), the Whitaker Medical Building, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Studies, and the new Amherst Alley.

The educational environment has also changed. New degree options exist in physics, mathematics, management, cognitive science and more. We now have hidden grades, grade requirements for prerequisites (a D by any other name is still an F), and we finally have a dean for undergraduate education. Oh yes, I almost forgot -- there is also Project Athena. Attitudes are changing quickly. Was your education better for each of these changes? Perhaps so. But the votes aren't all in yet.

The social environment differs drastically from when we showed up four years ago. Who would have envisioned a committee that screened movies to see whether they met "community standards"? Or needing to have a four-hour bartending course given by the Dean's Office before being certified to serve wine at a social function? Or parties being closed down at 1 am because the Campus Police don't want to deal with the possibilities of problems that might arise after that? Or the suggestion that tutors be required to turn in students who confide drug or alcohol problems to them?

I want to make it clear that I realize everyone is well-intentioned. I don't envision Dean McBay and Vice President Simonides sitting around deciding the best way to alienate and frustrate members of the MIT community. Many of the changes, such as 1 am party shutdown, are responses to Cambridge laws. But students are losing their faith in the Dean's office. There is a feeling that the administration has not played fair.

Most importantly, people have changed. When I first came to MIT I was sure that I had the world in my hip pocket. I was confident that I would make friends, get A's in all my classes and have a great time at school. I wasn't scared a bit when we gathered in Killian Court for the Freshman Picnic.

It's four years later. I'm going to start over again at graduate school. And I'm scared to death. I'm not so sure I will pass all of my courses, not so sure that I'll find a good thesis advisor, and not so sure that I won't spend four years alone in my apartment wishing I had a close friend.

It has been a sobering four years. Emotional changes have come along with intellectual changes every step of the way.

My charge to the graduating Class of 1985 is to take hold of the future and shape it into your vision of a better world. Many of you will find yourselves at the helm of large corporations or universities. You will have the opportunity to work for social change. Use it well.

I'm sure that I speak for everyone when I thank all of the faculty and staff of the Institute for their deep commitment to our education. Whether we have learned the most important lessons has yet to be seen. The best proof of our education would be to bring our society out of an age of injustice and threat of nuclear war.

Finally, to the members of the Class of 1985: I wish you all much health, good fortune, and peace.