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Don’t Come Around Here No More

Guest Column
Scott Bradley

Picture it. Campus Preview Weekend 2002. Bright-eyed groups of prefrosh clutching their purple and red folders begin to appear on campus. First they come sprinkling in ... one here, one there ... and then the downpour begins. They’re everywhere; in the Infinite Corridor, in the Student Center, sitting in on freshman classes. It seems like the CPW scene every year -- MIT hastily fixes up the campus to look pretty for the weekend, and somehow the cold rain gives way to sunshine and warmth.

But something is different this year. The prefrosh would surely be the first to hear it. One whispers to another, “I heard a student complaining about the administration.” Another adds, “Yeah, I heard something about not having the choice of where to live, which apparently will suck.” During a speech by the Dean of Admissions, one prefrosh leans towards another and says, “I was talking to some students, and they said something about no longer having pass/no-record?” “Yeah, and what’s this about an expensive mandatory meal plan?”

The prefrosh seem to hear it everywhere. “Wow, sucks to be you. I remember having fun my freshman year.” Hearing this, the prefrosh wonders whether he should really go to MIT.

Though CPW 2002 is far off, it strikes me that this situation is entirely plausible. The undergraduate “community,” or lack thereof as the administration seems to believe, is quite unhappy with the current state of affairs. With the proposal of a mandatory meal plan, which may only affect incoming freshmen, the 2002 transition has now touched very noticeably upon every member of the MIT undergraduate community. The pass/no-record changes and freshmen-on-campus change both focused, in my opinion, more on the FSILG community. For fraternities, at least, the fear concerning pass/no-record is that the added stress about grades for next year’s freshmen will discourage them from pledging. Along with the freshmen-on-campus change, the idea of a mandatory meal plan for freshmen also does not bode well for the MIT FSILG community. Between already being on campus and then feeling obligated to use those non-refundable meals, it seems unlikely that new-member freshmen will often make it to dinner at their FSILG’s house, which is a significant part of bonding at most FSILGs. However, the mandatory meal plan has also significantly angered members of the dormitory community, who also seem to dislike the forced change that has permeated the FSILG community over the last couple of years.

Current MIT undergraduates, as far as I can tell, are feeling very neglected by the administration, and are in many ways bitter about the lack of attention that the administration gives to our views. This is not only bad for the current students, but it is also dangerous for the future of the Institute. I know that being a prefrosh was a very significant part in confirming my decision to attend MIT. However, when I was a prefrosh, there was no talk about the transition to the new system. The Tech discussed crises like the wristband debacle the future Class of 2004 went through during CPW, but there was no complaining about the loss of freedom for undergraduates at the Institute. The significant population of males and females living in or associated with FSILGs were not complaining about the forced transition, the lack of administrative support -- a lack so pronounced that it can be interpreted as enmity at times. As a side note, I wonder if the administration realizes how much of a part FSILGs play in undergraduate housing; the dormitories are already crowded, so without the FSILGs, where would MIT put all of those displaced students?

All of the students I talked with during my CPW described MIT as a great place to be. But that was two years ago. I seriously wonder what this year’s prefrosh will hear from current students. Many current MIT students, who are some of the best and brightest of the world, prefroshed before deciding to come to MIT. With the significant displeasure of the undergraduate community toward the 2002 transitions and the administration’s attitudes, what will these current students tell the potential Class of 2006?

What would you do, as a prefrosh, if your excitement upon arrival in CPW 2002 was dashed by an MIT student telling you not to come here. I believe the true effect of students’ displeasure will not be seen in protests, such as the one that never occurred against Marilee Jones’ article for the faculty newsletter. Instead, it may be more subtle; MIT’s best salespeople for getting the best and brightest may simply tell prefrosh not to come here. Who knows maybe they’ll say, “Go to Stanford/Harvard/<insert name of other top school here>, and have fun.”

Scott Bradley is a member of the Class of 2004.