Student Life Includes More Than Academics
MIT has a serious problem on its hands when its students complain constantly about how much stress there is.
Some would say that since MIT is ranked the fifth best university in this country, nothing needs to be changed. Well, someone needs to wake up and realize that stress isn't good for us and that something needs to be done to help us reduce our stress. Why? It destroys our minds and keeps us from performing at our best.
Where does stress really come from? Is it from the amount of work that we get? Is it from the level of difficulty of the problems we are given? I don't think so.
In order to get a good education, you have to be challenged to think and be innovative. Then what causes stress? Stress is a result of our not being happy with what we are doing. I have seen so many people afraid to pursue non-academic interests because of the belief that there isn't enough time. Maybe there isn't enough time. But if we give up what we love doing, then we are defeating ourselves.
Here is a personal example. I came to MIT very eager to join the MIT Symphony Orchestra. I talked to many people about what this performing arts group was like and the thing that I kept hearing was that it took up too much time. In fact, it does take up a lot of time. Rehearsals are Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7:30 to 10 p.m. I consider that to be a rather large time commitment, but it is worth it because I love playing in an orchestra.
Just this past week I found out that I was named one of the co-principal cello players. I wasn't expecting this honor in my wildest dreams - I'm only a freshman. Now imagine if I had listened to people's statements that Symphony isn't worth the time and effort and decided not even to audition. I would never have found out what Symphony is really like. Time plays too big a role in our lives. If we are truly having fun doing what we love, then time is a secondary issue. When we are having fun, academics will fall into place.
But is it our fault - the fault of the students - that we always feel that we don't have enough time? I think that we are responsible for our own lives, but MIT is responsible for making its students call MIT "hell" after four years.
This image of MIT begins with Residence and Orientation Week. From a male perspective, R/O was a difficult time. In just three days, we were asked to choose between 32 independent living groups (fraternities, co-ed living groups, etc.) and 10 dormitories. Why doesn't MIT just assign housing to all of its students like other colleges? Wait, it can't. MIT would be in big trouble if every single incoming freshman decided to live in a dorm. Why? There isn't enough housing for every single freshman. The administration thus encourages a very active rush.
So, while we should be getting information to make an informed decision in choosing what classes we should take or what activities we want to participate in, we are instead preoccupied with where we want to live. Imagine how much fun we could have had during that week just meeting people and exploring Boston and Cambridge.
Imagine if we all lived on campus in dormitories that were all close to each other. Imagine how many more people we would know. The housing situation at MIT segregates us. It ends up pooling together certain types of people together in a particular fraternity or dormitory. That isn't how life should be. I hope that MIT realizes that its housing situation is the root of many of its problems and investigates the feasibility of building another dormitory.
Many more things can be done to improve MIT and to improve the quality of student life. Even if the academics here are given five stars, something is wrong when MIT receives only three stars for the quality of life that its students enjoy. I hope that the MIT community, the students, the faculty, and the administration realize that living is supposed to be a rewarding experience and not something to be described as "hell."
Jui-Chen Chang '00
Class of 2000 presidential candidate