R/O Rite of Passage Should Not Be ChangedAgain, this year brings forth calls to change the current residence selection process. I wish to argue that the present system works very well, but this is not clear until you examine what the real purpose of Residence and Orientation Week is.
R/O Week is a "rite of passage." It marks the transition in the new student's life from one status to another. And like many other rites of passage, it contains, in miniature, performances of the essential acts of his new status. These miniatures are both symbolic of the person's new status, and a first lesson of how to perform in his new status, done in a symbolic arena where the adverse consequences of real failure are eliminated.
The central feature of residence selection is that the student is required to select his new living situation very quickly, in the face of a flood of information that is nevertheless inadequate for accurate judgment, under intense pressure, with the assistance of dubious advice from many sources. The choice of residence is treated as very important, but really isn't nearly as important as its made out to be. The essential skills for surviving R/O Week are careful allocation of time and effort, filtering the essential information from a mountain of noise, comparing sources of advice, and making adequate choices in the fact of uncertainty. In short, it is a microcosm of what the student will have to do for his entire MIT career, and most likely, long beyond it.
R/O Week is a rite of passage for entering MIT, and provides a valuable introduction to what MIT is like. For this reason, I oppose changing the current residence selection process.
Dale R. Worley