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Prefrosh Experience Starts with Exclusion

Column by Frank Dabek
Associate News Editor

MIT rolled out the red carpet this weekend to host newly admitted students for its annual Campus Preview Weekend. The strategy of only targeting women and underrepresented minority students for the event, however, shows misguided zeal on the part of the administration to achieve the worthy goal of campus diversity.

Rather than encourage diversity in which differences are valuable as new insights, Campus Preview Weekend served only to highlight race and gender differences and to clearly divide the student body into ethnic and gender categories. Students, regardless of race or gender, should be attracted to the spirit of MIT's campus, a spirit that promotes and embraces the benefits of the interactions of diverse cultures and views.

This interplay is exemplified in the many cultural groups on campus, but it is undermined by an event that explicitly excludes participants based solely on their race or gender. Promoting an inclusive campus by excluding certain groups is not the answer. It seems counterproductive at best, and hypocritical at worst, to ensure diversity through this kind of discrimination.

In addition, by inviting only women and minority students to Campus Preview Weekend, those in attendance received an artificially "diversified" view of MIT. The administration would be better to invite all admitted students and demonstrate the diversity and tolerance that already exists on campus. It is more productive to foster and display this actual diversity to all prospective students than to create a fleeting and specious image of campus for display. By looking at issues of race and gender and seeking to improve relations between different groups, MIT could increase next year's yield from the Admissions Office's target groups. In addition, MIT could actually change and improve the campus environment.

An honest display of campus life would be much more appealing to visiting prospective students than the public relations efforts we saw this weekend. Furthermore, any event that makes clear racial and gender distinctions - especially one sanctioned by the administration - only serves to strain relations between groups and is actually counterproductive.

MIT is right to be concerned with the need for diversity in upcoming classes, but the proper solution is to continue encouraging applications from women and minority students and by maintaining non-discriminatory admissions. MIT provides one of the finest programs in science and engineering in the world. This fact should be the Admissions Office's message to all prospective students and should be the idea that draws them to this institution. MIT admissions should be truly color-blind and gender-blind, and it should seek the best students in the world, regardless of race or gender.

A future Campus Preview Weekend, open to all admitted students, could continue to encourage minorities and women to enroll. By maintaining panels and other programs tailored for groups targeted by the current weekend, the current goals of Campus Preview Weekend can be preserved.

As a further concern, the administration must take steps to ensure that it is MIT that is being promoted rather than independent living groups. By formulating a policy that limits the potential for pre-rush rushing by MIT's over-zealous Greek system, the distractions from the goals of the Campus Preview Weekend can be minimized.

Creating a representative student body is in the best interest of MIT. However, this goal, steeped in inclusion and equality, should not be reached through the exclusion of any racial or gender group.