Hey, frosh! I hope you enjoyed this year’s REX, because you’re going to have to run it next time. And you don’t want to start planning from scratch when you’re running an event for hundreds of people and the reputation of your dorm rests on your shoulders. But fear not! From my experiences as one of the Senior Haus REX chairs, I’ve created a list of tips on how to ensure your REX is successful and less stressful.
1. Ask the former REX chairs for advice. They’ll tell you what events are popular, what events aren’t worth it, how much materials cost and where to get them, and a wealth of other information.
2. Look at previous schedules for event ideas. Some of our most amusing events, like “REAGAN BABIES RE-ENACT THE WAR ON DURGS,” came from REX’s past. In addition, some events like “Bouncy Ball Drop” are traditional and always attract many freshmen.
3. Create events that attract the kinds of freshmen that fit in the dorm. You don’t have to lure every freshman to your dorm, just the right ones.
4. Take advantage of the early returns — allowances for upperclassmen to return to their dorm before freshmen arrive on campus. At Senior Haus, the REX chairs assign early returns to select upperclassmen so we have a ready supply of volunteers for events.
5. Get your dictator on. Instead of having people sign up for events, ask people for their preferences and then assign responsibilities. This will more evenly distribute tasks and ensure that every volunteer has something to do.
6. Run events that let the frosh talk to upperclassmen. The purpose of REX is for freshmen to get to know the culture of the dorm that they will live in. REX events should be well attended by upperclassmen that are willing to talk about the pros and cons of their dorm. One frosh commented that although he was temporarily housed at East Campus and went to one of their parties, he connected better with Senior Haus residents.
7. Food = Frosh. Freshmen are to food events like fruit flies are to rotting fruit. There’s no better way to lure hordes of freshmen than the promise of bacon. Plus, food events will also attract upperclassmen to mingle with freshmen.
8. Don’t schedule important events early in REX or before all freshmen are on campus. Some freshmen are in FPOPs that extend into the REX period. In addition, it’s rather awkward when the ratio of upperclassmen to freshmen is ten-to-one, where everyone either stares at the frosh or carries on their own conversations while the frosh just watch.
9. Don’t write REX descriptions with in-jokes in them. Descriptions of events should be attractive to people who are not steeped in that dorm’s culture, because freshmen aren’t. It’s okay to be enigmatic, but not insular.
10. Don’t run an event if (time spent preparing event) / [(length of event) * (number of freshman at event)] is greater than one. Aka, don’t make papier-mâché piñatas for an event that lasts 15 minutes and is only attended by three freshmen. The amount of time you spend preparing for an event should be proportional to the number of freshmen attending the event and the length of the event.
11. Communicate with the REX volunteers. The volunteers should know what their responsibilities are, when and where the events are held, whether they need to buy anything, etc.
12. Assign the most charismatic people to tours. I know my interest was piqued by the great tour given by Paula M. Countouris ’12 — the current Haus president— during my CPW. The tour guides should be well versed in the history and culture of the dorm.
13. Be prepared to reschedule in case of inclement weather. Because of the Great Anticlimactic Hurricane of 2011, all the freshmen were encouraged to stay in their dorms, so we had to cancel our trip to the Garment District. To entertain the frosh and cooped-up upperclassmen, we moved our mask-making event earlier, and people brought out board games. In the end, it was beneficial to have freshmen stay in the dorm and interact with Senior Haus residents.
14. Invite alumni. Nothing shows off the greatness of dorm culture so much as having alumni dedicated enough to come back and tell stories of the past. They can also pass on valuable advice to freshmen and tell amusing stories from the good ol’ days, like “don’t eat only mac ’n’ cheese for a month or you will have to go to the hospital for constipation.”
15. Run instructional events that contain information freshmen might not receive otherwise. For example, Senior Haus has an “Alternative Sex Seminar” that covers how to have sex at MIT (“You’ve heard the ‘how not,’ now learn the ‘how to,’” reads the event listing in the REX guide). Before school starts is a good time to learn about such things so that you’re not stuck trying to cut someone from a bedpost before their midterm exams.
16. Don’t present events in a way that could cause them to be misconstrued as hazing.
17. Sport REX! This year’s frosh are next year’s REX planners. REX lets freshmen learn about who they will be living with so that they have the opportunity to move if they don’t like where they are temporarily housed. But in order for REX to be successful the next year, each year’s freshmen have to be excited about REX and the choice it provides. Tell your freshmen to share their thoughts and experiences in Orientation surveys about REX if they had a good time.