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Letters to the editor

Preserve reasonable opportunity to explore dorms

I am surprised by the MIT administration’s proposal to rearrange the Orientation schedule such that other events and activities will encroach upon the REX period. Such a move has the potential to make it much more difficult for freshmen to make an informed choice about which dorm to live in, which in turn has the potential to drastically degrade their “MIT experience”.

I recognize that the current policy of housing all freshmen on campus has resulted in undergraduate dorms that are bursting at the seams, and has left the FSILGs under-populated. Solving that problem is outside the scope of this short note. What I would like to address here is the possibility that the MIT administration’s proposal with respect to REX may represent a mindset change to “let’s just get them assigned quickly to whatever undergraduate dormitory they’ll fit in.”

Of course, from a pure numbers point of view, getting freshmen assigned to dorm rooms is exactly what the MIT administration must do. By policy, they have to house the entire incoming freshman class in the dorms. So the administration’s reported position could well be a symptom that they have lost sight of how important finding the right living group is to the MIT experience.

Nevertheless, finding the right place to live­­­ — a place that’s a shelter from the infamous MIT “firehose” — is a process that should be given the time it deserves. Each living group at MIT has a unique character, and we need to give the dorms a reasonable opportunity during REX to describe what makes them unique, and to recruit freshmen that have a good chance of “finding a home there.” This makes sense, has worked well for decades, and benefits both the dorm residents and the incoming freshmen. The administration’s proposal to effectively “shorten” REX will allow neither the freshmen nor the dorms the time to go through this process properly.

If the administration just plans to shove freshmen into rooms without consideration for the unique characteristics of each dorm (does Bexley still have an anti-rush?), then I’m wasting your time.

However, if the administration is facing hard constraints (perhaps as a result of “freshmen on campus”), then we need to work jointly towards solutions that do not dilute or abandon the special nature of each dorm; one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to undergraduate housing choices at MIT. The administration will have to offer more/different opportunities (outside of a “shortened” REX) to get the message of each dorm out to the incoming freshmen (e.g., mailings, dedicated time during CPW, more extensive i3 videos). Then each dorm will have to clearly explain what life there is like, what its residents strive for, and what they do not.

In last week’s article, you quote Dean Norman as citing “academic readiness as a central goal of Orientation”. But anyone accepted to MIT is academically ready. If you ask any current or former MIT student, you will hear that “rush” or “REX” was all about finding the right people to live with, not about “academic readiness.” The success or failure of finding the right place to live has more impact on the “MIT experience” than anything else. If the MIT administration starts treating the dorms simply as places to warehouse students, then everybody — the MIT community, the living groups, and the students themselves — will be poorer for it.

Tim Kuo ’81
Baker House Vice President for Institute Relations, 1979-1980