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Diversity Not Yet Felt: It's Time to End Our Artificial Campus Divisions



Zareena Hussain

The faculty have jumped on the tragic death of Scott S. Krueger '01, and have used it to address the slew of problems that result from the current residential system. However unfortunate, this is a necessary evil.

From among a number of problems the current housing system creates, the greatest problem is the self-segregation that occurs almost spontaneously when the Interfraternity Councilrush chair announces, "Let the rush begin." This results in immaturity among many students, many of whom have never broadened their horizons by interacting with people unlike themselves.

While some call the IFC diverse, when was the last time you saw someone from Sigma Alpha Epsilonhanging out with his friends at Zeta Beta Tau? This self-segregation promotes and reinforces stereotypes. The stereotypes which seem to hold true at MIT have no relevance in the real world.

Women are not immune either. Take a look at the sororities or the cultural clubs. The only thing that saves women from self-segregation is the fact that choices for women segregating themselves off campus are limited. There is a one-year delay before those who choose to do so can completely cut themselves off from people they deem unlike themselves.

Some say people will still seek out and befriend those unlike themselves if they have the opportunity to do so in activities, classes, and clubs. Then why are the plethora of ethnically-segregated groups the strongest student activities on campus?

Even the arguments against randomization echo bigotry: "What if my roommate is a freak?" somehow translates to making sure you live with someone of the same social background.

Students need to grow up. We all got in here because of our good qualities. Is it too much to ask that you try a little harder to find those qualities in someone before you give up and set out on the unnatural hunt for all those who walk, dress, act, and think like you? Freshmen will find them even if they end up in a dorm they didn't choose.

MIT's self-segregated housing system does not transcend society offering choice and maintaining diversity, it merely mirrors the divisions in society at large, like the white flight from city school districts that occurs when white parents don't want their children going to schools with poor minority students. This has ruined cities and more recently plagued outlying suburbs.

Why does the Institute commend itself on the diversity of the freshman class, when those freshmen inevitably segregate themselves anyway? Why do students believe segregation is the only way in which they can assure their own membership in a strong community? What happens when the population becomes so diverse that the students can no longer segregate themselves based on the current distinctions?

The consequence of self-segregation is greater than the mere existence of black, white, Chinese, Indian and other ethnic cliques, first and third world fraternities, and the propagation of stereotypes. When MIT students go out into the world they will have to deal with people unlike themselves - people with different backgrounds and ideas about the world, people who don't always agree with one another nor even understand one another.

MIT students will have to work and interact with people of different races, colors, ethnic backgrounds and creeds. Their four years at the Institute do not prepare them for this, let alone help them to grow and become better people.

While MIT students are certainly not bigoted, the current housing system and the choices it forces leads us to close off our horizons and have a one-sided view of the world.

Students should accept and support the change and offer constructive criticism for how to best achieve the goals the faculty outline. In return, the faculty must remain steadfast in their vision to create a better living environment for students.

The faculty must not ignore that their motions will have an immediate impact on the current environment. To assess this impact, they mustlisten to students. While the faculty may be voting for what happens twenty years (but hopefully sooner) down the line, they must aggressively seek to understand the realities of MIT life, by actively interacting with students, instead of hearing about the ideas, worries, hopes and fears of students secondhand from deans or the small unrepresentative number of student who sign up to serve on some out-of-touch committee.