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R/O Week provides social, academic opportunities

Is Residence/Orientation Week, as it stands, an effective way to integrate freshmen into the MIT community?

I like R/O. I know it kind of sounds like a campaign slogan, but it's true. And I think that most undergrads will agree with me. But lately there has been much debate about whether the current system is really the best way to start off an academic career at MIT. Most people here who have gone through R/O agree that it should not be changed, and shudder at the alternative. I would like to offer my opinions on why I also believe that it works well as it stands.

First of all, I think that R/O is a fabulous opportunity to meet people and do things that most students will never have time for once classes start. I remember going to Thursday Night Dinners as a freshman and, at first, being totally overwhelmed with the amount of people on Kresge Oval. But, after I got into my group, I thought it was great that I was out in Boston with upperclassmen to show me around so I wouldn't get lost. I had heard horror stories about how rude the people in the Northeast were, so I felt a sigh of relief when I saw how friendly people were and how easy it was to talk to people I didn't even know.

Then of course, rush began. Since I'm getting old, I don't remember all the details of rush, but I do remember that most everybody I met had the same friendly, easy-going manner. But most of all, I remember that it was FUN. And, after all that, I was looking forward to four years at MIT. Sort of.

But there is much more to R/O than just the R. Many of the activities are centered around academics and class unity. This year especially, there seemed to be more of an effort to make the freshman feel comfortable before they started rush. I think that Project Move Off Your Assumptions (MOYA) was a good effort to give the freshmen more of a sense of identity as a class and to get to know each other before all the rush activities began. From the impressions that I got from many freshmen I talked to, I would say that type of activity should be continued and built upon.

One main complaint about the current system is that it takes the spotlight off of academics. I do not believe that to be true. MIT is one of the best schools in the country, and I think it would be a pretty tough job to try to downplay the rigorous coursework involved in getting an education here. However, I do think that by gradually easing the incoming classes into the academic setting by first having rush, then academic orientation, and then classes, helps to take stress off of people who may be worried about being able to survive here. Popularly referred to as "dead week" by many upperclassmen, academic orientation is actually attended by many freshmen, and is, I feel, another key ingredient to starting off at MIT on the right foot.

This year, freshmen had the opportunity to meet many faculty and staff at breakfast and again at the Academic Expo, which was attended by the majority of departments. Also, the Freshmen Explorations gave students chances to tour labs and participate in activities that they may never be able to do again. Both the expo and the explorations are places where freshmen can begin to think about their MIT careers not only in the short term, but for the long run as well.

The system, as it now stands, is not perfect, I will agree. Some people walk away from their R/O experience unhappy, and that is unfortunate. I don't think that we could ever have a system in which everyone would be satisfied. In a perfect world, everybody would end up in his first-choice dorm or independent living group, everybody would be friends, everybody would know what they were going to do with their lives, and everybody would be happy. But, in a perfect world, everyone would be as smart as everyone else, so we wouldn't even have to go to school or have jobs or responsibilities, either. Too bad we don't live in a perfect world.

who Holly L. Simpson '92 is the president of the InterFraternity Council.