Residence Exploration

How the Current System Fails Freshmen

“Your dorm selection is going to be one of the most important decisions of your undergraduate life of MIT. More than the facilities, it’s the people around you that matter, and it’s important to find the right kind of people you would like to stay with.”

In the past few weeks, this mantra have been repeated to freshman by everyone on campus over and over again; even in an orientation issue of The Tech. Surely, this idea has been drilled into the mind of every freshman by now.

The day I received my orientation packet from MIT, the big question of what dorms I was going to choose to live in arose. All over Facebook, there were discussions of what dorms the prefrosh were considering.

The summer housing lottery was approaching soon. As an international student, I couldn’t come for CPW. Therefore, the only resources I had to use to consider my choice of dorms were the guide to residences and the i3 videos.

It was confusing — the i3’s seemed crafted just to attract freshman and wouldn’t serve as an accurate representation of the community. They gave glimpses of the dorms but didn’t really provide a clear picture of what living in the dorm would mean.

Watching shots of bathrooms, dance parties, or people playing music didn’t really help in the decision-making process. And the videos missed out on many important intricacies of living in a particular dorm. I’ll take my own experience as an example.

I chose Simmons Hall because it seemed like a nice, clean, and balanced place to live, with great facilities and all different kinds of people. But there was nothing that could tell me that Simmons was across the field from the other dorms and that it could be potentially unsafe to walk back alone to the dorm at night when all my other friends on dorm row could walk back together.

During REX, the majority of the upperclassmen had not arrived. The dorms were eerily quiet and there was no way to gauge whether the dorms that we were temporarily assigned to was really the best place for us.

The REX events, with the barbecues, roller coaster rides, and parties, again seemed like attempts by dorms to attract frosh. How could we figure out whether the people in the dorm were people we wished to live with when the people hadn’t even arrived?

Moreover, suppose a frosh was able to decide that he/she indeed liked the dorm culture that was portrayed during the REX events, the readjustment lottery didn’t help much (as waitlists form for the most heavily-demanded dorms).

During REX I realized that within every dorm, every entry (or floor or wing or some smaller division) has a community and culture of its own. So if you did get a dorm you wanted but wouldn’t end up in the community you liked, there wasn’t really much point in putting the dorm as your first choice.

Perhaps I’m just being overly critical. I really do appreciate MIT giving us all these choices and allowing us to choose where we want to stay.

Most colleges just assign dorms themselves and the students have no choice but to stick to them. But I feel that more resources need to be provided for the students to be able to make a choice of where they wish to stay. I am very happy with where I am now, but I don’t know whether it is truly the best place for me or not.

Perhaps changes could be made such that the readjustment lottery would be held a bit later in the term, that is, after all the residents have arrived. Or, the procedure of getting into a dorm in spring semester or sophomore year could be made easier.

There are logistical issues with such changes, of course. However, there are many who feel they would fit better in some other place, and also quite a few who share my opinion that the time and resources have not been adequate for us to make the correct decision.

Radhika Malik is a member of the Class of 2012.