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A Freshman...s Lament

Katherine Silberstein

The next time I’m looked down upon for being on pass/no record, I think I might scream. Yes, we, the students of 2010, were born a few years after you. We still talk about proms and GPAs. We still talk to our high school friends. We’re new to this whole college thing. But does that give you any reason to make a mockery of our fledgling endeavors? “You have nothing to worry about; you’re on pass/no record.”

Granted, this factor does take quite a load off our high school-weary shoulders, but we don’t yet have a college backbone. And we still need to pass. Some of us have never taken physics or high-level math, and this semester gives us time to get up to speed. Stop telling us that MIT’s academic track was established so that a couple of failed introductory classes can’t hurt our chances of getting out in four years. We don’t plan to fail; we don’t want to hear it. We’re overachievers, just like you. Give us a second (or a semester) to adjust to mediocrity, please.

And don’t tell me you’ve erased all memory of the struggles of figuring out college life, or even harder, MIT life. Problem sets swallow hours with a satisfied gulp, no matter what grade you may or may not get on them. Remember what it felt like to have to ignore all the tantalizing new social experiences in order to study, or how it felt when you succumbed to the temptations? What about the plethora of extracurricular opportunities available to you? Were you able to narrow down and focus your choices without making any personal mistakes or academic sacrifices?

No matter how careful you are, it’s near impossible to have MIT all figured out from day one. There is a lot more to college than getting good grades, and pass/no record allows freshmen to realize that. What happens in the following years to make you forget? We are your fellow students. We too are paying thousands of dollars to walk down the Infinite. It would be nice if we could be treated as if you believed that.

Maybe with the approach of the holiday season and the end of term, more upperclassmen will stop rubbing in how academically superior they are to the supposedly meek little freshmen, either from holiday spirit, guilt, or realization of intellectual equality. Out of the goodness of my heart, I will grant that not all students older than freshmen behave in this manner; that should be understood.

There is enough of a negative vibe, however, between the big kids and little kids, that the issue needs to be addressed. This mild form of hazing is really unnecessary. All we ask is that the condescension and one-upsmanship end as soon as possible, so that when we are the big scary upperclassmen, we’ll remember how it felt to be on the bottom rung and act accordingly.

Katherine Silberstein is a member of the Class of 2010.