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Raaj's Quick and Dirty Advice for Rush

Column by Raajnish A. Chitaley
Guest Columnist

You might think that after going through one rush and seeing two others from the bowels, I would have some poignant memories to share. To be honest, I'm too tired to be poignant. To be honest, most of the upperclassman you've been seeing are all dead tired. Taking off T-shirts quickly takes a lot of practice, and they've been practicing a lot. So I'm going to cut to the chase and give you my quick and dirty suggestions for rush.

You've probably heard this before, but It's worth saying again: be yourself. Maybe you haven't acclimated to the altitude or something - or perhaps you are substituting for a real MIT freshman who had to be somewhere else? I've always wondered what possesses freshmen during Rush, but many of them don't act like they usually act. I remember one conversation where a freshman exaggerated his interest in baseball, only to be invited to watch the Red Sox game for four hours. Unless you want to live with people who know nothing about the "real" you, it helps to be honest.

I think most of the pressure that freshmen feel during Rush is the desire to belong. You've just come to new place with a populous and culture that's unlike anything that you've read about - of course you want to belong. But don't feel pressure to change or be something different - you are here to stay and no one can tell you that you don't belong. And it's only in your interest to live with people you can get along with.

Think about it this way: These are the people with whom you might be sharing bathrooms and showers. If in your enthusiasm for Residence and Orientation Week you got a tattoo of "MIT Class of 1998" on your chest, these people will soon know. (Any freshman with such a tattoo should seek counseling.) And if you are being yourself, keep in mind that it takes some time to get to know people. Don't expect instant friend-for-life sort of stuff, and don't change your personality or outlook just for R/O.

My second suggestion may seem rather stupid: meet lots of people. I say this because soon after rush, the campus will start splitting up into little groups. You are probably saying to yourself, "Who is this dolt? Chuck Vest was right, they must have made an admissions mistake. Chuck said that MIT was like one big happy family." Well, yes and no. You would be surprised how segregated MIT can be - even among the faculty. It's sort of like cliques in high school except this is not high school and they're not called cliques. Rush is the only chance that you will have to meet people before they are segregated into the various clumps that in aggregate constitute MIT. For undergraduates, these are primarily living groups and majors.

This is not to say that we all live in our closets and laboratories, but things change after rush. Classes tend to reduce opportunities to chum around with you and 1,000 of your classmates. And you will be busy getting to know the people in your living group. Only rush affords the opportunity to make as many friends and acquaintances as you can very quickly. And these are good opportunities. Rush is filled with chances to do things that are exciting with people who are fun - for free.

Finally, just because you have decided not to join an independent living group, it is no reason to stop meeting people or going to rush events. Rush will stop eventually, and you will still have to meet people. After all, when classes start you want to have someone to take notes when you're fast sleep. (Not that I've ever missed lecture, of course. Never.)

Third on my list is: don't worry about flushing. "Flushing" is the not-so-polite term that upperclassmen use to describe situations where they tell a freshman that things aren't working out and tell them to move on. If you visit a house for an extended period of time and they don't "click" with you or you don't "click" with them, they will tell you that it's time to go. You should not even let flushing cross your mind; it might or might not happen. First these are not easy sorts of decisions - they are not going to look out the window and turn people away at the door. You will have plenty of time to meet people in the ILG before anything happens. Another thing to know about flushing is that ILGs have a network of "referral chairs"; if you are flushed, you will often be referred to another house.

Flushing is at the heart of a major controversy about rush. Some people (administrators and students) feel that this is not something that freshmen should have to endure during their first five days at the Institute. No one should tell you that you're not welcome. I favor a more practical stand on the issue: No, flushing is not a nice thing, but yes, you have to find a place to live that you can be comfortable in. And as long as R/O stays the way it is, flushing will have to stay too.

You shouldn't take flushing lightly - its' a clear indication that your prospects for finding housing can best be satisfied elsewhere. At the same time, flushing is far from the end of the world. I liked to think that it's rather cathartic. (For those of you on Athena, % add sipb; % webster cathartic.) Many people, famous and otherwise, have been flushed, yours truly included. In fact, there's a small plaque to indicate where John Sununu '61 was flushed. There is even a "Flushing Trail" ( la Freedom Trail) of famous sights where people were flushed. (Look in your Hitchhiker's Guide for more details or call the R/O Center.) Move on and you will find a place to live.

My fourth suggestion is the one I believe most strongly: Don't believe anyone who says you can't succeed at MIT outside of a particular living group. This is what I hate about rush. Hundreds of people going around telling freshmen that MIT is an evil that crushes you with one fell swoop. Or telling freshmen that the only place to find support and help is in a living group. In polite terms, that's crap.

If MIT is so terrible a place, why would we come back, year after year - and why would we pay $25,000 a year to keep coming back. I don't know about you, but my parents and I could find lots of nice things to do with $25,000 a year, if I had it in the first place. By one theory, this badmouthing of the Institute is something that psychoanalysts call "disobedient dependency." If you really care, ask Jay Keyser, former associate provost for institute life and all-around nice guy. (Also ask him to tell you the frog and light story.)

Forget what a living group might say. You can survive. In fact, you can do better than survive, you can excel and have a damn good time doing it. To quote The Oatmeal Guy, "It's the right thing to do and a tasty way to do it." (I don't quote him very often, honest.) Now don't get me wrong - God knows there are times (e.g. around finals) when I pray for one of the bomb scares to be real. Unfortunately, our concrete paradise on the Charles can probably withstand a direct ICBM hit. Yes, "Tech is hell," an epithet that alumni know well. But you're here because you can and will make it through and enjoy yourself.

No particular living group has a monopoly on support. Saying that living groups have a lock on support is absurd. MIT employs lots of people whose only job is to get you through in four years (plus or minus some time). They want to see you walk across the stage at Commencement in June of 1998. And if you meet a faculty member you like (perhaps your freshman adviser or your Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program supervisor), feel free to ask them for help too. Many of them were MIT undergraduates themselves who still have the battle scars to show off.

The point is this: living groups shouldn't use the threat of a bad MIT experience to convince you to join them.

My final suggestion is the most important and the most clich: have fun. I don't want to be maudlin, but these days are hard to duplicate. MIT will not be the same again after this week. You will be treated like kings and queens for the next week or so. Eat all the free meals you can get your hands on, even if you never intend to live at that house. Trust me, after next week, asking upperclassmen for a steak and lobster dinner (medium well) will get you a drink from the Charles.

That's it - my quick and dirty suggestions for rush. As for me, I'll be sitting back with a remote in one hand and an ice cold beverage in the other. If you happen to stop by, close the door behind you because my air conditioner will be on high.

Have a good Rush and welcome to MIT!