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Students Should Not Allow Cliques to Restrict Them

Guest column by Jui-Chen Chang

I came from a science and technology magnet school. The education was great, but there were too many cliques. I felt uncomfortable in high school having to be defined by my clothes or by how I spoke. I felt uncomfortable about having to fit a particular pre-conceived image. When I got into MIT, I was thrilled; I would finally be at a place where everyone wanted to learn. After a week of rush, I am tired and sad that cliques seem to have taken over MIT and that so many people seem to be uneager to learn. A lot of freshmen have started to treat people as part of a group, instead of as real people.

I've been walking all around campus trying to get to know people. I visited fraternities and I visited dorms. It was sad seeing dorm mangers so eager to issue a rush violation. It was sad seeing freshmen herded around Boston and Cambridge like they were objects and not real people. Why can't we just be ourselves?

Ten of us are here from my high school, but all of us are different people. I've seen some of them go off to fraternities and sororities and other independent living groups, never even looking at dorms. I've seen people that have had a bad rush experience and have decided not to associate with ILGs. Everyone, including me, wants to feel accepted. MIT is a big place, and there are many different types of people, so I can understand why some people want to feel accepted right away. But being accepted is not worth the cost of changing your lifestyle at the risk of emotional and mental stress.

For those of you who believe that I hate ILGs, I must say that I am not against them. They are a great way for some to meet people and learn social skills. But some people pledge ILGs without even considering dorms as an option. I was walking down the sidewalk from the Academic Expo, and I said "hi" to one of my friends from high school. He didn't say anything to me; he just gave me a chuckle as if I were now a loser.

If we are to do well here, I think that everyone needs to be themselves. We must stop looking at people's course numbers or their interests as reasons to dismiss someone; we must use them to help us decide who we want to be. We share one common purpose - to get the best possible education. Learning is hard here, but if we all have a little more fun, we would all be much happier.

For those that joined a ILG, don't feel like you have to only socialize with people in the group. If you have decided to stay in a dorm, like me, don't feel like everyone in an ILG is a certain type of person. Every freshman comes into MIT wondering about life and worrying about fitting in. I've found that if I am honest with myself, I am much happier.

I hope that everyone realizes what MIT is really all about and why they chose to come here. Those that look sad and confused are those that need support the most. Don't hesitate to give someone a smile. It can bring about a lot of happiness.