Editors Note: We received the following letters in response to our advertisements calling for submissions, and in response to our survey.
A cause for community
After this shit went down with that blogger and Reif and those letters to The Tech, people seem to be all up on the idea that “stress” is a problem that needs to be solved and that a culture needs to be changed. I think the reality is a little different. I remember senior year of high school people would find out that I was going to MIT and ask things like “Isn’t that going to be really hard?” and I’d say “Yeah, why would I sign up for something easy? I’m not going to college to waste my time. I want to be challenged.”
That’s exactly what I got from MIT. I signed up for something that I thought would be hard, and that’s exactly what I got. I couldn’t be any less surprised. I don’t think I’m particularly different from most of the kids who decide they want to come here.
I think the proper reaction to “stressed students” is to reinforce their communities and their support networks, not to decide that stress is wrong. This is a school full of people who want to work as hard as they can, and that’s something we should embrace instead of trying to change people’s minds about how hard they want to push themselves. Sometimes I do need a break, and sometimes I do need some support, and I’ve felt very supported here at MIT. I think the communities that exist here are very strong and form a very good support network for students.
If you want something to improve, give S3 more ability to back students up when they need help. Open up Medical 24 hours/day. Make sure that students are not afraid of getting help if they self medicate with drugs and alcohol. As MIT students, we are extremely well equipped to understand student stress. Giving us the tools to help ourselves is one of the few realistic solutions to the “helping MIT students deal with the culture of stress” problem that everyone seems worried about.
Robert M. Johnson ’12
A different perspective
I am not the parent of an MIT student, but in nearly a decade at MIT, I have met with hundreds of students to talk about stress. This is what I’ve noticed.
MIT students have among the finest minds of their generation.
Even though they are the most talented people imaginable, they can feel like failures on the inside. To me, this seems immensely unfair — to be so gifted and passionate and yet not be able to enjoy one’s gifts and passions.
“Success” is often equated with suffering (giving up personal life, wellbeing, etc.). Therefore, people begin to lose interest in doing great things because of the perceived cost of success, and we lose the best minds of a generation. This, too, is immensely unfair. To be wholeheartedly successful, we must be able to decouple success and suffering.
Since the myth of “perfection” is a pervasive contributor to stress, a group of students launched a campaign called “imperfect@mit: a campaign to debunk the myth of perfection and prevent student burnout; raise awareness of the negative fallout of intense pressure; and spark action across all gender, racial, ethnic, and social groups.”
I advised imperfect@mit until the leadership graduated, but I wonder if their legacy could be continued. Their publication “What To Do When Things Aren’t Going Perfectly” is still available: http://web.mit.edu/imperfect/materials/brochure.pdf
Susanna Barry is a senior program manager at Community Wellness at MIT Medical
While I think this survey is a great idea and am very interested in the results, soliciting responses by leading with asking students if they’re “more hosed than [their] classmates” and “constantly drinking from the firehose” is bound to skew both the sample population and the responses to make students appear more stressed than they actually are.
Jonathan Chien ’14