The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 52.0°F | A Few Clouds

MIT orientation programs segregate students

In an effort to make new students more comfortable, MIT has decided that it is best to split students into groups. It starts when the Project Interphase students arrive and are all housed in the same dorm. Due to inertia, these students tend to stay put throughout rush because they decide that they want to stay in the same dorm they have been in all summer.

Interphase is not the only problem, though. The Institute also houses all transfers, international students, freshman athletes, and ROTC members in groups. These students are going to meet each other through their common activities whether they are housed together or not. What can be the possible reasoning behind segregating them into defined groups? The Institute's intention seems to be to make these students feel like they fit in. This can be important for international students, minorities, and transfers since they are all in special situations. I wholeheartedly support the ideas of Interphase and international and transfer Residence/Orientation. Wouldn't it be better to house them all over the campus, though? Doesn't MIT wish to encourage integration among all the students instead of fostering the idea that this group is separate from that group and another group is still different from them? The way R/O is currently run just emphasizes these ideas.

This year's international R/O, for example, held events for students in every dorm in McCormick West. An international student would never have heard of East Campus, Senior House, or Random unless they happened to take a campus tour. Transfers, on the other hand, were housed in East Campus and Senior House and all of their events were held in Ashdown. Is this to say that international students should not go east of Massachusetts Avenue and transfers should not go west? It certainly sets up a nice segregation right from the beginning.

MIT seems to be in this constant struggle to appease every minority group by separating them from the rest and giving them some kind of special treatment. In some cases this is necessary, since, for example, international students need time to adjust to a new culture, let alone a new school. Who else gets special treatment, though? I have talked about transfers and "underrepresented" minorities, but what about women? Women get Women's Weekend in the spring. There was also a big "Women's Orientation" push this year. While that is very nice, and I expect a lot of people to come down on me for saying this, I thought a lot of it was unnecessary. Perhaps I have been sheltered or lucky but I have never had any problem being a woman at MIT. I have never been picked on or made to feel second class or been "tricked" into sleeping with some guy when I was drunk. I am more disturbed by the people that keep insisting on making women one group and men another. We're only people after all. Conflicts are always caused when one group says "We've got to stick together," and a different group says the same thing. No one ever thinks that it might actually be more productive to mix the two.

So MIT has predefined all of these groups before they even get here whether you or I or they like it or not. And who does that leave? I guess it is the Asian and white American men. Is that who we are all supposed to be bracing ourselves against? Are they really that bad? Is it really that hard to fit in with them? Perhaps the members of the MIT community ought to give a little thought to these questions before they go and make Chocolate City a recognized living group, or plan another "women only" picnic, or house all the international students in the same dorm. Maybe then people will see beyond the small scope of what they think they are accomplishing to the larger scale of the mutually exclusive cliques they are actually forming.

Courtney Moriarta '91->