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Offensive, Condescending Attitude Dominates MIT R/O

Guest column by Courtney M. Eckhardt

I have a question for all of my fellow freshmen: why did you come to MIT? Was it because you wanted to change the world? Did you seek intellectual challenges, in classes and beyond? What did you expect from MIT?

I asked myself these questions, and came up with some unexpected answers. I knew, of course, why I wanted to come to MIT: science is my life. Arrogant as it may sound, I did come here because I wanted to change the world. I expected MIT to be a haven of intellectualism. I expected to meet other people who couldn't wait for classes to start, who also loved the stark beauty of mathematics, were also fascinated by the inner workings of life forms, or who wondered about the scientific reason for the birth of the universe. I wanted to find people who were curious about cloning or the origins of life, or about creating artificial life or artificial intelligence. I wanted and expected to meet people like me: people driven by a fiery need to explore and discover, people with an endless curiosity about the world around them.

I expected MIT to treat its freshmen like adults - to say in effect: "The world is yours if you want it, and if you try hard and still need help we'll give it to you. But you're on your own now. You decide whether you sink or swim."

MIT has disappointed me, however. The most salient example is the entire situation involving the MIT Extropians. The censorship of the Extropians pamphlet, and subsequent derecognition of the Extropians, was founded on the idea that the mailing was an inappropriate forum for such controversial issues, and that the subject matter of the Extropian pamphlet would make freshmen feel wounded and unwelcome.

Well, I have news for you. Freshmen may be young, but we're not fragile little flowers. I find myself insulted and offended that the MIT administration saw fit to hide from us a viewpoint that contrasted with the official policy of the Institute. As an agnostic, I found the endless flyers put out by the Christian groups on campus more insulting to my intelligence, and more unwelcoming and offensive to anyone who is rational.

Not only was my intelligence insulted before I even reached MIT, it has been continually assaulted since I got here. The most spectacular example of this was Dean for Undergraduate Curriculum Kip V. Hodges' "Intelligence Meter." I was the student chosen to prove his point that one student cannot yell loud enough to move the sound meter whereas the entire freshman auditorium could. Yet the demonstration seemed rigged: The meter actually moved when nobody was talking, but not when I was, and otherwise had little relation to the audience's volume. I'm embarrassed to have been an accessory to such a hokey demonstration.

What is the administration thinking? I will make friends with other freshmen because of their ideals and ambitions, because they will have befriended me intelligently, not because Kip Hodges put on a show fit for grade school children.

The Residence and Orientation Survival Skit was a poorly acted, patronizing "skit" that attempted to use humor and a patronizing attitude to explain what happens during R/O. The writers of the skit were extremely condescending. Somehow I think that if you are bright enough to be admitted to MIT, you don't need a patronizing skit about surviving orientation.

Being female and uninterested in fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups to boot, I left Killian Kick-Off upon the announcement that made us fair prey for upperclassmen. Upon exiting I was accosted by an organizer of the Women's Convocation who suggested that I come to Kresge with her. I tried to decline politely, having no intention of sitting tamely in a seat while women on stage tried to persuade me to become a sister or member of some unintellectual sorority. But she persisted, and I was forced to tell her rather rudely that I had no intention of living anywhere other than in a dormitory.

That was not the end of the unpleasant encounters I had with women's rush. The sororities that took over the fourth floor of the Student Center made an awful amount of noise and had such an attitude of phony salesmanship that when I was nearby I was in fear of being further accosted.

The sheer falseness, pushiness, and salesmanship of FSILG rush disappointed me immensely. It was rather like what some people call a snow job. The person I spoke to about sorority rush was trying to confuse me and hurry me enough that I wouldn't think about what she wanted me to do, and would go with her because she'd given me no time to make up my mind otherwise.

Despite all of these complaints, I really do love my new school and am thrilled to be here. MIT is the greatest place in the world. In a spirit of loyalty to MIT and the ideals that it stands for, I hope that some of these problems can be solved. Perhaps this column will point out to some of the administrators and students in charge of rush that this year's class is not completely satisfied with the treatment they have received so far.