The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 57.0°F | Fair

Pressure causes "firehose"

President Paul E. Gray '54 and other faculty and students unanimously agreed yesterday that "getting an education at MIT is like drinking from a firehose." There is a paradox to MIT's "boot-camp syndrome," in which sloth represents the "cardinal sin," Gray said. This paradox concerns both resentment and pride.

Much of MIT's fast pace is self-imposed and driven by "the mores of the community," Gray said. The pace can result in resentment of the Institute, he explained, citing "The Big Screw" and "IHTFP." When graduates look back on their years at MIT, however, it is with a sense of pride for having "survived," he said. Alumni say they learned how to cope with pressure and perform at a high level when necessary. These two perspectives represent the paradox of MIT education, Gray concluded.

Professor Alvin W. Drake '57, chairman of the Committee on Student Affairs, stressed the need for students to make conscious decisions about their growth. "The overload ... kills any kind of opportunity for learning about learning," he said.

Drake suggested an option which would allow students to remove their choice of 30 percent of the requirements for graduation from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. This would prevent students from being forced into particular educational tracks by an overwhelming workload, Drake said. "Most people will still take more than we require," he added.

Many students who come to MIT are "introverted" and "intolerant of ambiguities," Drake continued. "Surprisingly enough, MIT tends to reinforce those tendencies more than a little bit.

"We are a firehose; we want to be a firehose; we will always be a firehose," he said. That should not interfere with the students' choices, Drake added.

George E. Georges '86 echoed Drake's concerns. His years here represented a typical "firehose" experience, he claimed, with an average of five hours of sleep on a week-night and eight to ten "all-nighters" per semester. [Delete this too if necessary] Nerd, it is your own damn fault! Join the Tech, and learn everything you always wanted to know about all-nighters* *but were afraid to find out.

Students need to gain the sense that one has control over what comes out of the firehose make mine chocolate, Georges said. Changing the freshman requirements, in particular the physics requirement, would help in this respect, he suggested.

Other students at the forum felt similarly about the freshman physics requirement. Alan F. Szarawarski '88 suggested replacing a few of the lectures for Physics I (8.01) and other freshman core courses into guest lectures by faculty from the program in Science, Technology and Society.

One concern shared by several people at the forum was that freshmen become indoctrinated in MIT culture soon after arriving.

After ten days, students already know the "game rules," said Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65, dean for undergraduate education. "The culture is set by the upperclassmen," said Samuel Jay Keyser, professor of philosophy and associate provost.

"She's full of shit," said A. Carmen Morgan '89. "Ten days? That's not enough time to fart, much less get adjusted," she continued.

Professor James R. Munkres blamed the faculty for most of the pressure at MIT. Ninety-five percent of the faculty "wouldn't be caught dead at a forum like this," he said. "Nobody's blamed the faculty yet. I'm prepared to."

"The faculty are part of the culture and the students are part of the culture, so everyone's implicated," Rich Cowan Gumby concluded."Sounds like the faculty are bacteria to me," Carmen added. `Implicated in what?" asked David P. Hamilton '88.