Orientation is always an exciting time. 2011 was no exception.
After several days of free food and fun, Residential Exploration (REX) came to an end with the closing of the freshmen adjustment lottery on Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. But the closing ceremonies for orientation were on Saturday, Sept. 3 — a day early due to the threat from Hurricane Irene.
Concern over Irene caused a last-minute closing of the MIT campus on Sunday, Aug. 28. As a result, the Killian “kick-off” was delayed, and convocation was completely cancelled. “[Convocation] is one of the ‘bookends,’ along with Commencement,” said Elizabeth C. Young, Dean of the Undergraduate Academic Advising Program (UAAP). “It’s a way to welcome freshmen and their parents to campus.”
Despite the cancellation, President Susan J. Hockfield still had a chance to address the Class of 2015 at the faculty keynote on Tuesday.
Though the orientation schedule changes were clearly posted on the Class of 2015 “First Year” website, and the Orientation Guide (also known as the Hitchhiker’s Guide) was updated online, changes in dormitory-specific events were not as well communicated. Not all dormitories cancelled their Sunday activities, and those that did were not able to promptly update the Dormitory Council (DormCon) issued REX Guide, which provided a comprehensive list of the daily events hosted by individual dorms around campus.
Some students enjoyed the unexpected respite, taking the time to relax and explore their current dorm. Other dorms held their planned events, albeit with diminished attendance.
In addition to the Hitchhiker’s Guide and the REX Guide, the Daily Confusion — an alternative REX timetable — was distributed by DormCon to dormitories and in the Student Center. The Daily Confusion is a guide of funny and ironic dorm activities meant to “give dorms another way of communicating their unique sense of humor to freshmen,” according to Alicia T. Singham Goodwin ’14, DormCon’s vice president for REX.
Though the Daily Confusion is traditionally printed by The Tech, it was independently produced and distributed by DormCon this year. Until the DormCon-produced version this year, the Daily Confusion included mostly traditional REX activities, with some additional humorous event listings.
Tech Chairman Joseph R. Maurer ’12 clarified why the Daily Confusion was not printed in The Tech: “We offered DormCon the same terms this year as we’ve offered the FSILGs and DormCon in recent years,” he said. “DormCon was concerned over the editing process and was uncomfortable with us editing the content to our standards. We weren’t able to reach an agreement over the editing process, which is a shame because the Daily Confusion is a service we provide and we think it is a good one.”
“We think it is useful for the incoming freshmen,” Maurer added, “and we want to provide it again in the future.”
As in previous years, an edition of the Daily Confusion for FSILG rush was printed in The Tech.
DormCon’s REX guide
DormCon also organized an in-house effort to distribute its REX guide to freshmen. “To ensure that all freshmen are well-informed about REX and have access to as much information as possible, we’re going to have people waiting right outside the door to the check-in room handing out REX guides,” Singham Goodwin wrote in an email sent to each dorm’s REX Chairs. “Please sign up for a 2 hour slot … to volunteer to help [hand] out REX guides over the next week and a half.”
Young disapproved of DormCon’s methods. “Students cannot just distribute materials,” she said. The proper procedure for student groups that wish to reserve a table on the first floor of the Student Center involves notifying the Campus Activities Complex (CAC) ahead of time to express interest. “There was plenty of space,” said Young. “DormCon just never expressed an interest in a timely fashion … I met with [Singham Goodwin] many times and she never once said she was interested in having a table.”
“There is no reason DormCon needed to pass things out,” said Young. “This year, like the past ten years, we had the REX Guide on a table at the Orientation check-in — it was on a table.”
DormCon’s presence apparently slowed down the incoming freshmen and hindered the efficiency of the check-in process. “Check-in is a business that has to happen for freshmen to be able to go through with the rest of Orientation … we are here to help the next person to come in, get what they need, and go,” said Young. “If students don’t check in, there is no Orientation — we’re a customer service … [the freshmen] have to check in.”
Neither the Daily Confusion nor the REX Guide are included in the Orientation packet presented to freshmen at check-in. Instead, that packet includes the Hitchhiker’s Guide and official information about the math diagnostic, freshman essay evaluation, and MIT’s various learning communities.
“Our Orientation Guide is not about highlighting specific programs,” said Young. “If we published everything in the DormCon REX Guide in the Hitchhiker’s Guide, the things that students have to do would be lost.”
Despite REX-related complications, “Orientation was a great success,” said Daniel E. Hastings PhD ’80, the Dean for Undergraduate Education. “I saw some of the students at a dorm [REX] event and it just looked like they were having a lot of fun.”