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Cynicism Rules Rush More Than Ever

Column by Stacey E. Blau
Opinion Editor

The last-minute rain-induced changes to Residence and Orientation Week this year have generated some funny comments among upperclassmen. Rain moved Project Move Off Your Assumptions from its usual Briggs Field locale to Johnson Athletics Center on Thursday, and the so-called Killian Kick-Off was punted to Joshnson as well on Friday.

Some upperclassmen look back on their R/O as fun and exciting. But it seems like the vast majority students roll their eyes and shudder in disgust when they talk about their R/O. The conventional wisdom is that MOYA was exceedingly dumb. The beginning of rush is remembered as bizarre and bewildering; upperclassmen recall having little to no clue about what awaited them at Killian or what rush was really going to be like.

So it struck me as strange when upperclassmen began to express pity for this year's freshmen and their R/O experiences. The comments tended to focus on the idea that freshmen somehow weren't getting the real thing - that a MOYA in Johnson was not the real MOYA and that Killian Kick-Off in Johnson was a indeed a very far cry from the real Kick-Off.

Behind the upperclassmen's expressions of pity, however, seemed something far more interesting and mildly sinister. The very noticeable implication was not simply that the freshmen had missed out but that they, the upperclassmen, had gotten short shrift, too. The upperclassmen were disappointed that freshmen wouldn't be able to complain with them in future conversations about R/O and rush.

R/O comes up in conversations among students every so often, and people enjoy the fact that everyone, no matter what year, can discuss it like a shared history.

The purity of having had the same experience year after year lets people virtually finish each other's sentences and complain about the same stuff. Yeah, the activities were basically the same, but there was none of the same sweltering heat and vastness of Killian Court. There was no streaker at MOYA, no getting dragged kicking and screaming off Killian Court and across the bridge as the sun set. There was, well, rain. It just won't be the same with this year's freshmen.

I agree it might be the same with this year's freshmen, but I think it's for another reason. A Tau Epsilon Phi poster I saw in the Student Center began to address it - this year's freshman class looks like the best informed class in years. I think I'd go a step further than that; the freshmen just seem cynical. They don't seem to be buying much of anything.

On Friday at Killian Kick-Off, freshmen seemed not only bored with the proceedings but also quite willing to let people know. Some shouted and groaned during presentations and singing; when things seemed to be dragging, one shouted "Let the rush begin!" to the amusement of the rest of the audience. When I spoke to some freshmen milling around on the floor of Johnson before the start of rush, they seemed universally scornful of the rush that had not even begun.

I was surprised that freshmen were even aware of what was happening to them; when I was a freshman, few people in my MOYA group pre-Kick-Off session seemed to have a clue that rush was about to happen. That this year's freshmen were already so negative about their role as in the rush process was more amazing. I was impressed; it usually takes a bit more than a day for that kind of cynicism to set in.

Wherefore all the negativity so soon? Could it have been the rain, the sense freshmen got that things were just not the same this year? I doubt it. Maybe it's the Freshman Leadership Program. Many freshmen seemed annoyed at the elitism and behavior of the group that went to FLP - another shining example of MIT's god-awful efforts to train student leaders and indoctrinate with them with sensitivity training (I bet the activity where freshmen signed their names in cursive in the air with their derrires went a long way toward those goals). Maybe the cynicism comes from the MITExtropians pamphlet. I bet it was unnerving for freshmen to see the rush events the pamphlet ranted about taking place before their eyes.

Some upperclassmen already have said that rush is not going so hot this year; the expectation this year is that 375 freshmen will pledge may not come true (and even if it does, as Ioverheard one housing official smirkingly remark, the 375 figure doesn't count the 100 freshmen who might eventually move back to campus when they decide to depledge - a statement probably a bit exaggerated, but pointed nonetheless). The success of rush may prove the best gauge of the cynicism of this year's freshmen. Freshmen may be more enticed this year by the lure of, say, Senior House's bondage bathroom formal rather than yet another fraternity pub night. You never know.