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R/O Is Confusing, But Ultimately, the Choices Are Yours

Column by Douglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor

Welcome, freshmen, to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I'm sure the last few weeks have been a nerve-wracking experience; after all, you've been preparing to head off to a place that you probably don't know much more about other than the few MIT mailings you've received this summer. While high school friends are giving you their fall term addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses, you've only been able to meekly say, "Well, I don't know where I'm going to be living yet."

But that's all about to change. In the next four days, you'll determine where you will likely live for the next four years. Unlike your old friends, who have been assigned roomates through a great computer algorithm or by a group of staff assistants in some office, you're getting to choose where you want to live (or at least rank your preferences)after seeing the places.

Residence and Orientation Week is a hectic time for sure. But it's well worth it in the end, since you'll be making the call on where you want to live, who you want to live with, and the atmosphere that you like. And it's just the first decision you'll make here at MIT, a place where you're definitely forced to make more decisions than you would be at other universities.

Consider, for example, another important part of your experience here - what you eat every day.At most other universities, freshmen are required to purchase the most expensive meal plans - under the guise that the university wants to make sure that students don't stop eating when they leave home.

Here, however, you won't be required to purchase any meal plan, at any time. If you want to go eat at McDonald's down the street every day, it won't cost you like it would elsewhere. If you want to cook yourself a gourmet meal every day, you can do that, since just about every dormitory has kitchens. Depending on what you choose, you'll find there are trade-offs involved with your time and your stomach, but you've got the decision to make yourself.

Similarly, in spite of those claims in The Hitchhiker's Guide to R/O that certain events over the next couple of days are mandatory, you in fact have the freedom to choose what events you want to attend. No administrator is going to come and get you if you don't show up to Project Move Off Your Assumptions, Killian Kick-Off, or the essay and math evaluation - although it might be advisable to show up to that last one.

Realize, too, that some R/O events, while not officially rush events for fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, are indeed rush events, disguised though they may be. Tonight's event, In the City (called Thursday Night Dinners until this year), is probably the most blatant example of this.

All groups attending In the City are prohibited from revealing their identity unless asked, which they obviously will be during the course of dinner. The Interfraternity Councilgoes so far as to limit the number of people from each fraternity as to ensure that no fraternity has an advantage at recruiting freshmen to come to dinner. The event is indeed a valuable way for fraternities to get to know freshmen; the IFC decided last year to ban two fraternities from attending the event this year because of their violations during last year's rush.

In the City is a great chance to meet upperclassmen.Still, remember that it can be used as a rush event, and treat it as such. Don't think that the upperclassmen from fraternities and independent living groups are just there to show you the town; they're also there to make their initial recruitments. Their interest in you extends beyond Thursday night and into the weekend, if you fit the profile of the member they're looking for. The same goes for Project MOYA; many of the counselors come from Greek organizations.

There's many other things that you can get done during the next week besides the mandatory and pseudo-mandatory rush events in your Hitchhiker's Guide. Investigate all your options on issues of housing and beyond. If your looking for a job, for example, don't take the first job that you see. Instead, look for one that really fits in with what you want to do for the next year or beyond.

Similarly, look at all your options for everything else this week, before term starts and there isn't enough time to deal with everything. Your banking options aren't limited to the BankBoston on the first floor of the Student Center, for example.There are better - and cheaper - options available just a few minutes away.

The best advice, however, that Ican probably give for this week is to listen to everything you can. I remember arriving here a year ago absolutely clueless on which professors taught especially well, which banks had the cheapest plans, where to eat off campus, and everything else. Everyone Imet had their own opinions on those things, butI was eventually able to make informed decisions based upon their input.

Have a great Residence and Orientation Week. In just a few days, you too will have an address and phone number, just like your friends from high school. It'll be an ordeal to get there, but it'll be worth it in the end.