As the fall semester approaches and MIT’s Class of 2014 arrives, I feel obligated to discuss an issue that affected my experience as a freshman. The Institute can boast of an exemplary faculty, course selection, and student body. However, MIT’s freshmen advising program has not been impressive. In contrast to most schools, MIT offers freshmen the ability to choose between group and individual advising. Residence-based Advising (RBA) and Freshmen Seminar Advising (FSA) place students with a group of their peers and MIT faculty members, while Traditional Advising focuses on individual meetings with a specific faculty adviser. Whereas most schools assign hundreds of students to a few specialized counselors, MIT advisers are largely drawn from the normal faculty.
The recent proposal to change the freshmen-on-campus policy has caused much debate within the MIT community. The administration first made on-campus housing mandatory for first-years after the death of a freshman from heavy drinking at a pledge party for two main reasons. First, the Institute claimed that the change would expose freshmen to a community outside of their immediate living group. Second, the major public backlash after the death surely played a role in the policy change. But while keeping freshmen on campus does help them integrate within the broader campus community, that more campus-oriented community often isolates freshmen from an independent living group in which they may feel more comfortable.