Changing The Way We See R/O
Wesley T. Chan
It will now be called Orientation/Residence, though most people at MIT will remember it as "the event formerly known as Residence and Orientation." Last week, the change-happy Dean's Office issued a decree that gave R/O its newfangled name in an apparent attempt to de-emphasize the residence component and to stress the orientation part.
If the new name sticks, I guess that makes me one of the last R/O interns to ever roam the halls of MIT. As last year's R/O logistics manager, I quickly discovered that I had to worry more about the residence component of R/O than I would have liked. Everyone I dealt with had different and often conflicting interests, and everyone expected that we give them what they wanted. From a perfect Daily Confusion to a Killian Kick-Off that wouldn't rain, everything that could "hurt rush" was fair game to demand from us.
Along with my colleagues, I spent more time trying to find innovate ways to keep rush-crazed upperclassmen - dorm and fraternity people alike - from literally grabbing freshmen and luring them away for the benefit of their living groups during orientation events. We spent a large amount of time and resources trying to keep upperclassmen from turning R/O a rush free-for-all. Too many people believed that orientation concluded once Killian (or rather, Johnson)Kick-Off ended when it actually lasted two more weeks. Attendance at orientation events - even supposedly mandatory ones - dropped significantly once residence selection began.
Some upperclassmen even told freshmen that they didn't have to attend clearly mandatory orientation events. Unpacking and spending time in their new living groups, apparently, were more important than attending a session on what core requirements freshmen had to take.
We also had to constantly question the motives of numerous R/O counselors and staff. While we knew that most R/O volunteers genuinely wanted to help freshmen acclimate to MIT, there were still workers and counselors who had ulterior rush motives. In retrospect, we had to spend too much time to ensure that their motives didn't interfere with the way they completed their R/O duties.
Now, that "everything is on the table" and any change, no matter how big, is possible, it's no longer business as usual. We can't pretend that we can just change R/O by reordering its name. Too many people think that R/Ois just about picking a place to live or filling beds at living groups with as many "quality" freshmen they can get.
It's these fundamental attitudes about R/O that we have to change in order begin the move towards making it more orientation than residence. R/O is so much more than finding a place to live. It's about learning about the many academic and social options MIToffers and making decisions with that information that can significantly impact your future. By over-emphasizing the residence part as we have in the past, we inhibit the ability of freshmen to make other decisions that are equally as important as choosing a place to live.
In any case, the administration has finally and publically indicated their displeasure over the residence part of R/O by de-emphasizing it in their name-change decree. They've realized the importance of the orientation part, and it's time we all do so. All of us need to put our own self-serving interests aside and ensure that next year's freshmen class can go through an O/R that won't cause them unnecessary stress.
Consequently, the people coordinating O/Rshould no longer have to needlessly worry about serving everyone's housing interests. They should rather be concerned about putting on the best possible program they can to introduce freshmen to what they can expect during their next four years at the Institute.
Hopefully, freshmen will experience a different first two weeks at MIT than we did. In order to facilitate this, we need to stop being so preoccupied with ourselves and start worrying about what next year's freshmen will see when they come here. We have to show them an MITwhere they can make confident decisions about their future without having to go through unnecessary stress. O/R should be about discovering what opportunities and options exist at MIT - both residential and beyond. It's about time we begin focusing on the latter.