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Demystifying the Institute

Guest Column Andrew J. Kim

It is safe to say that the events involving Scott S. Krueger '01 took all of MIT by surprise. His tragic death is something few of us ever figured would happen. Unfortunately, it did happen, and now the whole MIT community lives in uncertainty as to what changes will be made in our lives in the near future. One item that will definitely change in my mind is my perception of MIT.

From my early childhood, I have always known MIT as an unsurpassed institution of higher learning. Many great men and women got their start here, and the Institute is the focal point of many significant advances in science and technology. My belief is that attending MIT is an honor that very few people ever have the opportunity to receive. These characteristics place MIT in at a level far higher than most other institutions.

MIT is different from most colleges in many ways. The student body is large enough to illustrate the diversity of the people here and yet just small enough to enable students to recognize faces in the halls. The workload here is immense; MIT students define the word all-nighter. The majority of MIT fraternities uphold the original ideals upon which they were founded. In general, there are good relations among students, between the students and the faculty, and even with the administration for the most part. At a quick glance, all the items at MIT that are different than the average college campus make MIT a better place.

This belief is certainly positive, but it also has fostered the idea in some of us that MIT is a place that is far from the ills of most college campuses. We always poke fun at Harvard for their supposed arrogance, but maybe we have become a little too complacent ourselves.

The unfortunate death of Louisiana State University freshman Benjamin Wynne in late August didn't seem to shake this complacency in any way. In my mind, it actually reaffirmed the notion that wild stuff like that doesn't happen here and never would. We were obviously wrong about that.

President Charles M. Vest is correct in his statement that underage and binge drinking are problems at every college in America. Yet even those at MIT who acknowledged this before Krueger's death dismissed it with comments like, "This is MIT. Stuff like that doesn't plague us like at other college campuses. We're immune to it."

After this violent reality check, I know now that MIT is no longer immune. The evils of alcohol that pervade every other campus exist in full force here as well. The big questions in my mind now are how much luster does MIT lose after this unfortunate incident and how well will we react to that change.

The media was all over Krueger's death because it followed on the heels of the LSU incident and especially because it happened here of all places. Each major network had a reporter stationed in Killian Court, and national newscasts showed clips of Senior Associate Dean Robert M. Randolph's press conference. It seems that the media had a great time exposing past incidents at MIT and depicting this campus as the site of a crisis.

I now acknowledge that MIT is not the perfect place that I had envisioned it to be. However, at the same time, I have enough faith in the talents and abilities of the entire MIT community to firmly believe that the students, faculty, and administration will reach a reasonable solution that will remedy the problems of underage and binge drinking and make MIT serve as a paragon so that tragic events like Krueger's death will never happen again.

Andrew J. Kim is a member of the Class of 2001 and a brother of Phi Kappa Sigma.