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10 more reasons to love MIT

By Adam Braff

You can't be a sort-of famous columnist at a sort-of social school without meeting all the campus heavy hitters. In this, my last column before I transfer to Brown, I will introduce you to arguably the ten most influential people in Cambridge.

As MIT has kindly offered to take me back next fall, I asked each power jockey to tell me what he likes about the Institute and its environs. So armed, I figure I'll be better able to decide where to spend my senior year. Also, writing nice things about MIT, I feel, poses a greater challenge than what I've been doing all term.

Emil (chairman of Institute Judicial Committee): "I like Boston. That's kind of a bust, saying that the best thing about MIT is what city it's in. The Arboretum, on the orange line at Forest Hills, is cool. Boy, that sounds awful: `The best thing about MIT is its proximity to the Arboretum.' It's just that MIT's architecture is sixties-techno-ugly, what the sixties' vision of the future might have looked like. All those exposed pipes in the hallways -- it doesn't look finished. But Boston has this colonial, romantic atmosphere."

The idea that MIT is good only for its surroundings, that it's a scratched stone in a pretty setting, is not uncommon. (A warning here: these people are good friends of mine. I am allowed to address them by their given name. Not everyone has this luxury.)

Kevin (former president of the Korean Students' Association): "MIT's in a good location for interaction with other schools -- Harvard, Tufts, Wellesley, BU."

"But what," I asked, "makes MIT unique? In a positive way, I mean."

"The other schools don't allow the same access to facilities. Not too many schools let a group like KSA rent out the cage for a whole day or reserve Kresge. The Institute tries hard to accomodate student activities."

Which, despite grumblings about low funding from the odd activity, is true enough. Speaking of the odd activity...

Jack (co-founder of the Pool [as in billiards] Club): "MIT is small enough for you to know most of the people in your class and for you to explore things on your own, like IMs or dorm activities. A professor here can really concentrate on undergraduate teaching.

"In big dorms at other universities, you're isolated. MIT is a small community with more interaction among people."

(This is easy, letting everyone else write my column. I should have thought of it in September.)

Other comments verged on the bizarre.

Debby (incoming chairman of The Tech): "It's strange, but I'm starting to like Student Cable. `Sesame Alley' was the coolest and sickest thing ever. Also, I love `Musique Plus' -- it helps me practice my French.

"I'm very impressed with the support MIT gives the arts in general. Getting an associate provost for the arts and establishing the Council for the Arts were important positive steps toward Institute support of art and music."

Brian (president of MIT Student Cable Television): "I remember when I took the tour, and I thought it was neat when the guide said that people call the east side of campus `E' -- like, instead of saying `I'm going to the med center' they'd say `I'm going to E.' My favorite thing about MIT is that this is not true. MIT may be strange, but it's not that strange."

Joanne (seniors editor of Technique): "It's like a soap opera. The way people interact is like a soap opera."

"Is that good or bad?" I asked.

"Everyone has a history with everyone which nobody knows about but everybody knows about. Characters disappear for six months and then reappear and nobody knows where they've been."

I don't watch soap operas, so I can't vouch for the behavior patterns of television nerds. Joanne's characterization seems pretty accurate here, though. Where does everybody go? To the Arboretum with Emil?

Jenny (president of Share a Vital Earth): "That's a tough question. I'd have to say I like running a booth in Lobby 10, because I like talking to people. They stop by and are ready to hear what we have to say. When new people come to me and get involved in the environment, that's great, even if it's just for that one time."

Is MIT a soap opera or a be-in? Neither, says one influential graduate student, clearly a master of the backhanded compliment.

Tim (husband of Dana): "I like not having to decide what to do with my life; MIT is, in a way, a protection from life. It's kind of like being in jail, the way it protects you. And I like D-league hockey."

A small amount of influence, naturally, is conferred to the Undergraduate Association. Chances are you had no idea until now that most of the power is concentrated in the capable hands of...

John (Class of '91 vice president): "MIT is an interesting contrast to life in the country. The seclusion factor is gone. It's a total immersion society. You have to get used to people, to the amazing mix of culture. But it's similar to home: small town, small campus. It's fun knowing everybody at MIT."

My favorite response came from Josh (quad-captain of the football team), who lives in Alaska:

"The weather. It doesn't bother me at all; winter here is nothing like at home. It amuses me how bothered people get when they see a few inches of snow. But that's the lower 48 for you."

Is it possible? The best thing about MIT is entirely uncontrolled by the administration? Hey, I believe it. I have a little trouble, however, with Jack and John's understanding of MIT as a small school. When I think of small schools I see classes taught in barns, students calling teachers by their first name, liberal arts classes -- which brings me to MIT's Big Problem: the humanities department is, to say the least, weak.

But I've promised to stay positive. Believe it or not, I have many kind things to say about MIT. The alcohol policy is gentle. The Lecture Series Committee shows good movies. I like going to basketball games and screaming until my lungs hurt. The Bad Taste Concert is always fun, as is the 2.70 Contest.

Perhaps my favorite annual activity here is the UA presidential election in mid-March. Despite bronchitis and chronic sloth, Shawn Mastrian '91 and I got up far too early every day for two weeks last year to tape our posters in the most visible locations around campus. At what other school could two miscreants, equipped solely with Xerox money and a junk car to give away, get 25 percent of the popular vote? I applaud the public's poor taste.

My contact at Brown tells me that the student government there is taken somewhat seriously, a relative term if ever I heard one. That, and my increasing loyalty to MIT as I write this column, leads me to think I may run for UA vice president from afar this year.

If elected I will have little choice but to load my carpet once more into the station wagon and drive back to Cambridge. Can you imagine anything scarier than having a UA election directly affect your life? So take care to remember me, a quaking columnist somewhere in Providence, when you vote next term.

who

Adam Braff, a junior in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and a columnist for The Tech, will be a student at Brown University in Providence, RI, this spring.

Mr. Night Editor: please use no more than two sandwich quotes. I think there is an illustration -- niraj

Can you imagine anything scarier than having a UA election directly affect your life?

`The best thing about MIT is its proximity to the Arboretum.'

"In big dorms at other universities, you're isolated. MIT is a small community with more interaction among people."

"Everyone has a history with everyone which nobody knows about but everybody knows about. Characters disappear for six months and then reappear and nobody knows where they've been."

[bb]

"It amuses me how bothered people get when they see a few inches of snow. But that's the lower 48 for you."