The problem with telling people not to generalize is that, well, you’re generalizing. You may very well find that some generalizations fit (e.g. all MIT students have excelled in previous schooling) although seemingly similar ones don’t (e.g. all MIT students have excelled at prior science). Instead of telling you to eschew all stereotypes as you acclimate to the Institute, this article will better enable you discriminate between the precise prejudices and the merely accurate ones. Such is journalism.
First off, there’s the misconception that MIT is an engineering school and thus devoid of anything artsy or emotional. This is wrong on two fronts. Many students, faculty, and administrators are either dedicated entirely to the arts or dabble in it on the side, a fact perhaps most evident in the array of a cappela groups on campus. All this is not to suggest that they are very good in their pursuits, a fact perhaps most evident in the comedy troupes on campus.
Secondly, the School of Engineering is but one of six here, and while some other schools arguably produce engineers as well (such as the School of Architecture and Planning), any attempt to consider, say, members of the Sloan School of Management “engineers” would be a semantic stretch. Furthermore, as these “Sloanies” have grown in number and post-graduation salary over the years, their peers in other departments have come to disparage them out of nothing but jealousy. Management is decried as fluff and the Sloan school perceived as not really part of MIT; even their classes are seemingly sequestered on the far east end of campus. In actuality, a Sloanie’s core curriculum consists of extensive number crunching, with classes required from the econ, math, and EECS departments.
Now comparative media studies, that’s a fluffy major. Having evolved out of a film studies program, CMS classes involve a lot of cartoon watching, web surfing, and music listening under the pretense of academic critique. In a way it’s sort of like going to Harvard.
While Harvard jokes are good for a laugh, Boston University jokes are just elitist and cruel. Many capable individuals attend BU, thanks to their generous scholarships and faux-NYU location. The same holds for BC if you substitute “Catholicism” for “faux-NYU.” Undergrads from either can go on to MIT grad school, so the D-I jock you mock today may be your TA tomorrow. Jokes about Tufts are fine, especially involving Larry Bacow.*
Although not quite neighboring students, time-honored tradition and free busing make Wellesley students a frequent target for blanket statements -- nudge nudge -- as well. Put quite bluntly: Wellesley women are not sluts and should not be treated as such. They only come to MIT to have good time because, well, have you ever tried to have fun around Wellesley? It’s like playing Sims Online. McCormick women, however, are indeed frigid.
Dormitory stereotypes should stop there. The Fantastic Four Freak Dorms (Senior Haus, East Campus, Bexley, Random Hall) would have you believe they are weird, eccentric, and all in all a marked contrast to the “West Campus” dorms. Actually, at MIT there are weirdos and well-adjusted folks all over.
Some dorms -- and their components -- just like to make a bigger deal about their supposed oddity than others. If there is any difference of note between the FFFD and West Campus, it’s that the FFFD seem to have fewer residents of Asian descent than they statistically should. Remember: despite what the Office of Minority Education thinks, Asians are oppressed minorities.
You may be asking: What of the Fraternities? Then people will turn around and look at you, wondering why you’re talking to a newspaper. They’re so far off campus, you might as well be asking about the Cambridge-MIT Institute, or Next House. Why bother when MIT campus itself is so interesting? Some may say it’s not much of a campus, but it has its choice spots. From the aesthetically pleasing, but acoustically counterintuitive Barker Library, down to the massive lobbies within Technology Square, the insides of buildings have many a sight to behold. Judging buildings by their covers just gets you in a crowded quad-turned-quint in Baker, while those that braved Bexley get their own kitchen.** One glaring exception is William H. Gates Building; the name alone should have told us it was going to suck.
**No, it’s true; Bexley has the best rooms on campus. Don’t you feel stupid now?