President, Speakers Welcome FreshmenBy Eric Richard
Associate News Editor
The Class of 1997 was welcomed to MIT, warned of the rigors of MIT life, and inspired to achieve by President Charles M. Vest, Professor Woodie C. Flowers PhD '73, Undergraduate Association President Hans C. Godfrey '93, and Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, during yesterday's convocations speeches in Kresge Auditorium.
With each speaker giving his own personal advice to the Class of 1997, the new students were urged to reap all they could from their experiences at MIT and told that while MIT may seem trying at times in the end their experiences would prove to be an enormous benefit.
Vest, the first to congratulate the entering class, gave new students the traditional assurance that they "were not admitted to MIT by mistake." Vest also said each student will "have the intellectual capacity, the energy, the imagination, and the will to succeed, both in meeting [his] personal goals and in contributing to this unique academic community."
Vest then lauded MIT for being a truly exceptional educational institute, touting nine Nobel Prize laureates, where"students, faculty, and staff of every conceivable race, ethnicity, and background have come together from around the world to pursue our common goals of learning, discovering, creation, and invention."
"Wherever you come from," Vest said, "and wherever you go after your four years here, you will find that your MIT education will serve you well." He added that while the next four years will be rigorous and full of pressure, "After you've gone through this remarkable place, you will know that you can do virtually anything."
Vest told the students to celebrate their diversity, saying, "Don't be afraid of your differences, but acknowledge them. Don't try to erase them; learn from them. Men and women together create a more balanced discourse and world view. Black and white, brown and yellow, red and tan, create a campus and nation far more meaningful and creative than any of us can do alone."
Flowers stressed understanding
Professor Flowers followed Vest with a motivational speech encouraging students to "learn to learn" and denouncing "garbage in, gospel out" learning by stressing the fact that students should actually learn to understand the material they are presented and get a feel for what it actually means.
He said that students should "develop a visceral understanding of the fundamentals" while they are hereand "make sure things make order of magnitude sense. Try to tie them together in as many ways you can." Flowers said that failure to do so would mean "our profession will have mis-served society."
Flowers also suggested that an education at MIT is the "cheapest opportunity you will ever have to fail," adding "you've got to learn that failing is part of moving forward. And you've got to experience it and say, `Oof, that smarted,' and keep moving."
Flowers urged students to learn to harness their fears and anxiety and use them to push themselves even further. He warned against the perils of ignorance and technophobia and explained that we all have a job to do in dealing with their effects.
He also warned against becoming "out of balance" by becoming a "pure humanist or scientist" saying, "If this happens, everybody loses."
Godfrey focused on challenges
Godfrey, in turn, focused on the global changes taking place and emphasizing that it is these "challenges and changes" which should concern the class of 1997 as it will be a time of great transition in both the world and at MIT.
Saying that "MIT has no lack of its own challenges and problems," Godfrey pointed to the "poor race relations within our community," the "deficits and sacrifices ... required to finance an education whose price continues to skyrocket" and the faculty's non-responsiveness to "the often rigorous pressures of undergraduate academic life" as examples.
However, he said that while these problems "may at time prove daunting ... there is always an opportunity to make progress despite the odds and adversity." Godfrey compared MIT students to the Institutes soul and said that by looking ahead to the future MIT can face these challenges and succeed. Godfrey urged students to seize every opportunity and the "almost limitless curricular and extracurricular opportunities on campus."
Godfrey challenged the Class of 1997 to "accept the responsibility as a group to take on the leadership role ... to take this place beyond any vision that I, the faculty, or the administration could ever establish."
Smith outlines dean's role
While Dean Smith resounded the same congratulatory and hopeful spirits that the other speakers presented and expounded upon MIT's uniqueness, he also emphasized the accessibility and resourcefulness of the Dean's Office. Smith informed the students of the Dean's Office's role in various campus activities including City Days, Independent Activities Period, and Residence and Orientation Week itself.
While he emphasized the fact that nearly 92 percent of those in the audience would successfully complete the MIT curriculum, he also pointed out the counseling services which the office provides for those having academic or personal problems. He said that with the students being away from their homes, they would have to rely on the experience and knowledge of others when times became trying.