The Merits of Dormitory Rush
With all the debate that has gone on about the decision to house all freshmen on campus for their first year, there has been disturbingly little debate about how Orientation should work without fraternity, sorority and independent living group rush. While I support the decision to house freshmen on campus, I am worried that MIT will take the changes even further and end dormitory rush. Such an action would devastate the housing system at MIT beyond repair.
Moving fraternity rush later in the year and having freshmen move into FSILGs their sophomore year, while a significant change, doesn't fundamentally change the way housing works. Freshmen still get to rush fraternities during an organized time and those wishing to join will still move in, en masse, at a designated time. Surely, it does change the timing, and probably the retention rate. But fraternities are still composed of people that choose to pledge. And this change is also at least attempting to solve a problem.
Terminating dormitory rush would, however, make fundamental changes for the worse to the way housing works at MIT, for no apparent reason other than to save a little money and effort. The choice that MIT gives students in selecting their dorm and the floor/entry within their dorm allows dormitories and floors/entries to acquire a personality, albeit a slowly changing one. There is a place for everyone, whether you want to live in a black-lit Elvis-shrine, a floor with intramural sports enthusiasts, a Kosher suite, or any of a slew of other types of places to live.
Feeling comfortable with your surroundings does an amazing amount for one's peace of mind after coming to a strange new place for college. Taking dormitory choice away would destroy that. Certainly, people are allowed to move from dorm to dorm, but without the opportunity to sample them all during rush, and without a specified time when everyone is choosing their living arrangements, it would be much harder to end up in the "right" spot. And the likelihood would increase for MIT's housing system to devolve an arrangement where people move from dorm to dorm each year in small cliques of friends - not a system that many would strive for, I would hope.
Proposals such as sending freshmen booklets describing each of the dormitories and floors/entries and letting them make their pick with a Business Reply Card don't come anywhere close to providing the amount of real and useful information to freshmen. With MIT's recent realization that the well-being of its student body is at least vaguely important and deserves a modicum of support (e.g. increased student activity funding, the Infinite Buffet, etc.), it would be a shame if one of the most important sources of student happiness was ruined.
Douglas C. Wyatt '96