What has been happening to MIT recently? It seems as though the “powers that be” are chipping away at all the things that I thought made life at MIT worth it. At this point, I doubt I’ll recognize the place by my five-year reunion. I’ll spare you all the rant about dining, but shortening REX to a single day is completely unacceptable.
First of all, CPW cannot replace the extra time for exploring dorms. I was lucky to be close enough to travel to MIT without my parents and already knowing I wanted to go there. Even so, I never actually made it over to one side of campus, let alone all of the dorms and living groups on the side where I was. There simply wasn’t enough time, with all the other activities put on by student groups, teams, academic presentations, etc. And there were plenty of other students who weren’t even sure they wanted to go to MIT or who arrived with their parents — further hindering their freedom to dart around campus. Many students who will enroll at MIT aren’t even able to attend CPW.
From the other side, having been through CPW four times, it would be a lot to ask of students for them to represent their dorms and scout next year’s freshmen when they’re not even sure who will show up as a freshman. I personally urged my prefrosh to attend events put on by student activities and go sit in on classes, and then worry about where they will live in the fall. Plus, CPW is in the middle of term, with all of its problem sets, projects, and general exhaustion for students. It is not a time when we can chat with freshmen for hours on end about dorms.
Having made an i3 video for French House, I’ve realized how far some videos are from representing an entire dorm. When each dorm can comprise about ten different floors, halls, and entries, it is vital that freshmen get a chance to talk to residents. A video can give a first approximation for which dorm is a good fit, but discovering a niche and finding out if you click with a living group takes more than just a day, especially when time must be spent figuring out where all the dorms are and how to get to them. Considering that many freshman participate in FPOPs and ASEs, I can see many skipping out, because apparently dorms aren’t important enough to devote more than a day to figure them out.
The administration claims this change is about making sure that freshmen are academically ready and not exhausted for class. Maybe my brain’s getting foggy from old age, but isn’t there half a week between when freshmen move and the start of classes? Maybe we do have “the longest orientation in the country,” but so what? Since when is MIT so concerned about fitting in with everyone else? Part of what I loved about this place was that we weren’t all dumped into a freshman dorm like so many of my high school friends. In addition, we had so much freedom to choose where we got to live, that I began to feel like an adult and that the administration respected us enough to make our own decisions. Living with upperclassmen, especially ones I bonded with over a nice, relaxed REX period, made me more academically ready than any official orientation event I attended. They were a source of advice, especially when I was choosing my classes, and not only did they help me with my homework, but some became my best friends. I was happy to pass on the favor when I became one myself.
While REX helped me find the perfect place for me to live as a freshman (and I was sure because I actually had a chance to visit all the dorms, as opposed to during CPW), I did move during IAP of my junior year. I can’t imagine how stressful it would be to move in the middle of a term, or be stuck in a place you truly don’t want to live while you languish on the waiting list. With all the upperclassmen trying to escape extreme dining prices, how long will it take a freshman to get exactly where they want to be if they don’t get it right the first time? It takes more than even the REX period we have now to figure out where to live, so how can that time be cut so short? If you want students to be less exhausted, try making them happier and not needing to pick up and move mid-term. And, if you’re worried about the logistics of starting FPOPs on different days, are you sure you want to transfer that responsibility to the housing office or even mental health services, and make students even more stressed out in the process? Freshmen are already focused on making the transition from high school classes to MIT. It is vital during this time that they have a strong support network, which starts where they live. It will be that much stronger if they really spent time choosing it themselves. There is nothing you can do to make them more “academically ready” than allowing them that freedom.
I’m not even mentioning the importance of REX to the upperclassmen and the dorms themselves. You all know how important it is. Don’t let them take it away from you.
Jacqueline Rogoff ’10 is a former Vice President of French House and a former resident of East Campus.