There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that MIT is a difficult place. The challenges students face, whether academic or social, are difficult to handle even amidst the best mental health states. We enter the Institute as the top students from our hometowns with ambitions of maintaining this status by being the best in our classes and extracurricular activities. We have not failed until we get to MIT.
It is precisely for this reason why Student Support Services (S3) exists. We need guidance in our time of need. S3 is honest and sincere, providing students with a resource from which to navigate the Institute — be it a listening ear, letter to a professor, referral to mental health, or a myriad of other resources. S3 cannot solve our problems for us — it can only give us tools and support with which we can overcome our challenges. S3 cannot solve every issue, nor can it seek out every student at risk; rather, it should be seen as a resource to empower students to resolve the challenges they face.
I truly believe that I would not have made it through my undergraduate career if I did not have the guidance of the S3 office. I too thought about leaving MIT, having faced emotional and medical trials at the Institute. While my pre—MIT self would have never asked for help, I came to realize that life is more important than each problem set or test. I learned that I can — and should — fail. S3 did not solve my problems for me — they helped me to navigate my way through fixing them myself. For this, I am truly grateful.
Years from now, I know I will continue to look back at MIT as the place where I became me — not because of the work I did in the classroom, but for the person it helped me to become. S3 forced me to face my problems head on, guiding me in the directions that ultimately shaped me as a student and a leader. I owe my life to S3 in more ways than one, and I thank them for everything they have done for me and others like me.
While I too grieve the losses our community has faced this year, I urge you not to point blame at the support systems we have in place. Rather, I ask you to take a stronger role in your living communities, classrooms, and activities — to care more for one another and help those in need. But most of all, I urge you to realize that it’s ok to fail, for only when we hit our bottom and ask for help can we rise to face the good coming our way.
Samantha Marquart graduated in the class of 2011.