FHC proposal would give freshmen perspective
I would like to thank Jeffery Hornstein for putting some humor in my somewhat dull Friday afternoon last week with his letter ["Freshman housing system is sound, despite flaws," Dec. 8]. I was especially charmed by his implication that MIT is no place for the genre of people who would live in freshman dorms because they would not be "adult" enough to get through MIT. At the same time, he says he would have never gotten through MIT if it was not for the support of his fraternity.
Maybe the support is different in a fraternity than in a dorm, but that point needs elaboration. Many people are as alone in a fraternity as they would be anywhere else and might be better served by the flavor of support in a dormitory. Having lived in a fraternity, a dormitory, and off campus, I have found the more obvious truth: support comes from friends regardless of the institution in which they reside.
Hornstein (and John and Charlotte Grossbeck, in another letter ["Housing system is one of Institute's strengths," Dec. 8]) also alludes to the issue of fraternity rejection and the real world. Is it really healthy to face rejection after meeting a group of people after four days? Does that really help prepare students for the realities of academic and professional rejection they will face? I think the analogy is very superficial. First of all students who never rush fraternities often end up just fine. There are many such students at MIT and there are many such students at prestigious colleges around the country. Come on! The four-day fraternity rush does not provide the self security one needs to get through life. Even if we were chosen for our professional jobs with such little substantive consideration, that is clearly not the way things should be done. I mean just because "life is not fair" is no reason for everything to be unfair. Obviously, just because there is murder in "the real world" does not mean we should practice it on campus.
I think the whole merit of fraternities for freshman in and of itself is questionable. Hornstein makes the fraternities sound so official and substantive. He implies for example that freshmen are provided with "information" about fraternities before they arrive at MIT. The more appropriate words are "propaganda" and "advertisements." In addition, some fraternities require pledges to answer all phone calls and do much of the cleaning. There are various degrees of hazing on campus whether or not we like to admit it. Fraternities thrive on a lack of identity and personal direction in the pledges. Subtle as is may be, the "break down" and "build up" process is alive and well. It forms the basis for generating "unity". By spending a term at MIT outside of a fraternity, freshmen can establish some of their initial identity in healthier bases such as academics or athletics. Yes, social identity is important but it is much easier to default to a secure social environment than a secure academic one. Why not secure the academic identity early? Freshman pass/fail can allow freshmen to postpone facing their academic identity until their sophomore year. I think the first term rush makes it easier for freshmen to start out on a hindering track.
One of the few points which Hornstein addresses that is not subject to witty conjectural for-or-against arguments is the question of how second-term rush would effect the housing system. As Hornstein points out, fraternities will most likely suffer. But why will they suffer? They will suffer because freshmen would be happy and comfortable in dormitories. But if they are happy in the dorms then why shouldn't they stay there? Preposterous is the resulting implication that by keeping rush first term, we somehow "trick" the freshmen into choosing fraternities and living groups. The "defacto" and "dejure" pressures of rush are so effective first term because the freshmen have not yet been at MIT long enough to truly experience the environment first hand. Clearly freshmen will have a healthier objective perspective after bing a "free" student at MIT for a term than they have immediately after the four day artificiality of rush. The preservation of living groups and the bureaucratic entanglements that lie therein should not take precedence over individual student welfare.
Eric Blackman '90->