R/O must include residence selection
(Editor's note: The Tech received a copy of the following letter addressed to Matthew C. Oberhardt '93, chairperson of the Undergraduate Association Committee on Housing and Residence/Orientation Week.)
I would like to respond to a summary of the main points and recommendations of the Freshman Housing Committee printed in the Oct. 25 issue of UA Today, the UA's newsletter.
I agree that R/O should try to "assure a strong introduction
to MIT, both socially and educationally" and "provide strong support for the transition to the academic demands of MIT." I also agree that for certain people, rush may be a little "rushed." Despite this, the summary's recommendations are slightly off-base.
The report suggests housing
all freshmen in dormitories. The way the system currently exists, there is not enough room to fit another 350 freshmen in the dormitories without severe crowding.
UA Today's summary says that "The residence provides a retreat among like-minded people, a place to recover from the rigors of the academic arena." But how will randomly assigning freshmen to rooms achieve this? It is easier to retreat if everyone around you is somewhat like-minded. This is not to say that there isn't diversity within a dormitory. I've lived in the same dormitory since I was a freshman, and I've met and enjoyed the company of many people who only share a few characteristics with me.
The UA Today summary goes on to say that "rush for [independent living groups] and sororities would be deferred from the R/O period" and that "for those students who remain on campus . . . the system should be designed
to encourage students to change dormitories." If students are going to be allowed to change dormitories, their decisions to change are probably going to be based on the dorm's personality.
But if freshmen are randomly assigned to dormitories, each dormitory will by definition lose its distinct personality. We could avoid this problem by having freshman dormitories. But this would cut down on the interaction between freshmen and upperclassmen -- a pity, since upperclassmen are a major resource for freshmen turn to when they have problems, both academic and social.
The UA Today summary says that "bringing together freshmen and upperclass students" is something "at which the present R/O excels." If so, why change it?
Some people have bad experiences during R/O week: At one point, I was "flushed" from a certain ILG. I got over it, got into a dorm that I am now very glad I got into. I'm sure that there are a lot of other people who feel the same way.
Maybe your committee should redirect its efforts and find a way to improve the orientation part of R/O instead of trying to abolish the residence half. Keep R/O similar to how it is now, but put the orientation part first -- call
it "O/R." Encourage class unity through activities such as the successful Project MOYA, and other discussion with upperclassmen, similar to the R/O Counselor discussions but more frequent. Without rush and other activities, academic orientation may seem more interesting.
Peter Tarsi '93->