Learning to make things happen

Coming to MIT, I was the classic quiet guy in the back of the room.  I could do schoolwork. . .and didn’t think too much past that.  I didn’t like it much, but I didn’t really know what else I wanted.

The East Side fixed that.  And not only from exposure to all sorts of people; the exposure to the idea that I really could make my life interesting, in ways I never would have dreamed of anywhere else.

Do I want to learn how to cook?  Then go for it.  Make mistakes.  Ask for help.  Work at it.

How about a mural?  Make the dorm something other than institutional white?  Get an idea, make a proposal, and try it.  So what if you’ve never painted before?  Worst thing that happens is you cover it in white paint and someone else gives it a try.  Who wants to live in a sterile hallway, anyway?  Humans decorate anything they can get their hands on.

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Free to be me!

SH initially attracted me because it was the “oldest” housing on campus, part of the original pouring of the concrete, as it were.

What I found there liberated me from a shy (very) sheltered Asian girl from an Evangelical (actually, more rabid) Christian family into a thinking human being able to stand on her own.

I had many friends who had chosen Baker/NH/”the other side” of the campus who later regretted their choices as they didn’t know.  However, having settle into their chosen housing, inertia took over.

East side of the campus meant that I could walk back to my “home” and get away from the crushing pressure of the academia.  It meant, I could let loose and no one would judge my eclectic taste or “weirdness” (different values).  I meant that being free from judgement, I was free to express myself in ways I never thought possible.

This kind of freedom is something that needs to be treasured!  Not only did I get a first rate education while living there, the people who chose to live there became my close family with whom I still keep close contact after all these years (well, FB helps a bit with that).

I could never have taken that first hesitating step without the support of the upperclass women who told me, “everyone’s opinion counts here” and she meant it.  The fact that I still remember her and her words which had a huge impact on my life should be noted (Thank you, Tamar More!)

The most valuable part of my MIT education

I had a typically degrading rush experience in the autumn of ’96.   Witnessing the male students aggressively recruited by fraternities, looking at the co-ed living options, immediately dismissing the boring sorority options, I felt let down. I was temporarily housed in MacGregor, and when I returned to my temporary room at night, the neighboring rooms were already doors closed lights out.   I remember the residents there giving me strange looks when I told them I was going to check out Bexley, East Campus and Senior House. It reminded me of the disgusted looks that the kids in high school shot at me for coming first in a math competition, or for wearing a ‘My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult’ t-shirt.

I got over to the east side later that day, and then I saw him: a guy dressed in leather, wearing a ‘Siouxsie and the Banshees’ tee. I actually followed him from a distance to see where he was headed – straight into the Senior House courtyard.

Senior House had been renovated that year, and the residents were on a crusade to retain their weirdness. Desperately trying to dissuade the freshman attracted to the elevator and air conditioning, they blasted punk rock from speakers in the courtyard. A group of kids sat relaxed on the cement bench, smoking a cigarette, watching another guy with long hair, pulled back into a ponytail, doing radial tire swinging.   The decision to put the dorm as my first choice was a no-brainer. The dorm had more first choices that year than ever before. I told my parents that I decided to live there so I could be close to the med center in case I had a bad asthma attack. I didn’t want them to worry.

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Mens et manus, motherf***ers.

Many of these posts share a common theme of a sense of home and family. This is true for me as well. MIT, East Campus, my hall, is the first place that has ever felt like home. My classmates, dormmates, hallmates, are the truest family I have known. But it’s more than that. East Campus is my home. But it is also my classroom. My workshop. My laboratory. The place where I’ve learned to bring an idea from conception to design to completion, to manage a team, and to be an effective minion. Where my friends and I have tried to defeat the safety features on a laptop battery to power a robot, build a remote triggering system out of a wireless doorbell, convert our wall into a electronics prototyping board, and experience Minecraft in real life. The place where the freedom to modify our space, paint our walls, build our furniture, wire our lights and our music players and our soda machines leads to more practical experience than any lab class. A safe environment in which to push our limits and grow, both personally and technically.

My hallmates are my family and best friends. But they are also my colleagues. My teachers and advisors. My co-conspirators. The people with whom I make, hack, dream, innovate, learn. The people who, my freshman Rush, before I formally lived in EC, taught me how to solder surface-mount parts, helped me extract my long, un-tied-back hair from a power drill (oops), and showed me what it’s like to feel comfortable in a community. The people who showed me what “saute” means, how to email a professor for help, how to prepare for an interview, and how to best respond to a blackout (rock climbing with headlamps), uncountably many skills and pieces of knowledge. The people with whom I invent and build, and the people who will form my professional network in the future when I’m looking for a job, or starting a company.

The summer after my junior year of high school, I visited the Media Lab as part of a class trip. Upon return, we were asked to write a reflection on our experience. I wrote about how cool it was to see a place where people with all kinds of backgrounds, fields of specialty, and interests work side by side on projects of immensely varying scope. How I could see how the flow of ideas between people and disciplines created a uniquely creative space. Biologists work next to computer scientists work next to artists, and the product is much greater than anything possible when disciplines are siloed. I was cautioned that the Media Lab was unique, that I would be unlikely to find such an environment anywhere else, that I shouldn’t let it set my expectations for what my life as a student and engineer would be.

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More Adolescent Feels

I could write so so so much about the “East Side,”  about all of the wonderful assholes who are part of it, about the willingness of people to do whatever random, stupid shit you can come up with, about its culture that doesn’t accept your views because it didn’t care in the first place, about how it’s made someone who’s always felt isolated feel so much less so than ever before, about the fact that I consider the East Side, not where I’m from, my home, but alas, I have work to do.  Instead, I’ll just say this.

I’m afraid.  So many of us are.  We fear that in the very near future, this habitat won’t exist any more–that students like us won’t find their places at MIT.  MIT’s dorm’s shouldn’t all have an “East Side” culture, but MIT does need some with it.  Other posts on this site prove that.

This is about more than just where we eat, sleep and shower.  The East Side is where we live and grow and experience.

It’s our  home.  Here I undresswhether I want to walk around wearing a sparkly leotard or strip off the mask that shields me from the world.  Where there’s no one to judge.  Where I know people who care are.  I laugh here.  I cry here.  I curse the world here. It’s my home.

<3

The Lost

 

 

Professor of Biology, Boston College

It is a shame to think that one of the most distinctive aspects of MIT that supports the creativity of its students, i.e., the undergraduate housing system, may be heading in the direction of Dave Eggers’ novel The Circle.  As a “child of Florey” (class of 1980), I participated in activities that were not necessarily permissible, but were part of growing up.  My first date with my future wife included sitting on the minor dome watching traffic move up and down Mass Ave. I became friends with the EC building manager Norm Magneson (of blessed memory), after he made me repaint the exterior of my fifth floor window frame from the optic orange I had painted it (who knew that you could only paint the interior of your room?) only later to realize that he made a student go out onto the fifth floor ledge!

The placement of cameras to constantly monitor the activities of MIT students would create an environment not unlike that of the world of The Circle, in which “ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN”. This is a time for students to make some mistakes and grow from these experiences. Administrators who advocate for these policies should “go transparent” and elect to wear video cameras 24/7 to see what a bad idea this is and how it would stifle the human spirit.

Long live Jack Florey and the East Campus/Senior House lifestyle.

Charlie Hoffman

Why I chose to live on the east side of town

Greetings.

 

I thought I would take a few moments to register a possibly dated view of my decision-making process (in 1984) regarding choice of living space and why I to this day regard that choice as a good one.

I arrived during Rush Week of 1984 and stayed at Random Hall for Rush week.  I avoided the “Greek System” and toured East Campus, Bexley, Senior House, Baker House, Next House, and Burton/Conner.

 

I chose Senior House, and the decision was a good one. There is no question that adverse events happen on the East Side as well as the West Side and off campus- the Runkle fire happened on my third or fourth night there; I knew the young man who fell or jumped to his death a few years later.  These sorts of events are scattered across the campus and are not in any way unique to  Senior House or any other residence hall.

I found Senior House (and the east side of campus) a uniquely tolerant environment.  Gay, straight, republican, democrat, libertarian, christian, jewish, muslim, black. white: there was and I hope still is an environment of open tolerance. I can think offhand of six or so people just in my first two years who transferred to Senior House from fraternities, sororities, or other dorms because they found themselves living in openly hostile environments due to race and sexual orientation and had to move. For two years I managed room assignments in Senior House and thus was briefed on all transfers into the dorm.  The desire to form a community of tolerance manifests in many ways.   The grey walls and yellow lights I remember from visiting Burton-Connor contrast with colorful murals.  Cafeteria eating at Baker contrasted with kitchens where students could cook vegan or gluten-free meals.   Izod shirts and Sperry topsiders on the west side contrasted with purple hair and tie-dye on the East side.

I hope that an oasis of individual liberty and freedom exists still on campus, even if it looks like The Island of Misfit Toys to visitors.  Murals and tie-dye and green hair are the lighthouses that signal the entrance to a safe harbor for victims of prejudice on campus.

 

thank you for your attention.

Trust.

As a 5E’er, the murals and hacks and black hallways embodied the agreement the institute had with its students:

“Go govern yourselves.   Make sure everyone is represented, feels safe, and is happy and in return you are free to make this place your home.”

This freedom, this responsibility, this trust was palpable within East Campus.   We valued that trust and reveled in it.  Our friends from other schools were in awe of it.

At 17 years old, the institute treated me like an adult and thus helped me grow into one.   I sincerely hope MIT does not revoke that trust.

The importance of being different

A simple question: can you expect MIT to continue to be a conduit for world changing individuals if the Institute takes steps to suppress heterogeneity? Please continue to support environments which allow those that do things a little different (and many of whom subsequently end up figuring out novel next-level solutions to important problems) to thrive and find supportive culture.

The global status quo and trajectory are not acceptable. The world needs these people now more than ever.

watson

class of 2003, EC Fifth East

Home, not Hotel

One of the things that makes MIT truly unique is the dorm culture found on generalized East Campus. Whenever I describe the culture found in Random or EC (the places I identify with the most) to my friends at other schools, their eyes get wide. “You get to choose where you want to live? Each FLOOR has a culture??” We don’t want a sterilized living environment where everything is provided for us – we want the chance to live, to dream, to explore.

I want to wake up at 3 AM with people building pulley systems or blowing things up in the middle of the night. I want to be able to explore my sexuality without any fear of judgement from my community. I want to break free of cultural restraints and try things – and when I fail, to be protected by my community in a safe, caring manner.

I want East Campus culture.

A Sunny Place for Shady People

One of my favorite TV shows is a cartoon on the Disney Channel called Gravity Falls. It’s quirky and hilarious and manages to buck a lot of dumb TV tropes and clichés. Now, I’m not saying Gravity Falls is East Campus – all I’m saying is I’m not not saying it. After all, nobody has ever seen Gravity Falls and East Campus in the same room together.

There’s a scene from Gravity Falls that has always resonated strongly with me. Mabel, one the show’s main characters, is at a party when she meets two other girls, Candy and Grenda. Grenda has a pet iguana on her shoulder and Candy is using four forks taped to her fingers to eat from a bowl of popcorn. In a close-up shot, Mabel whispers, “I’ve found my people!”

I’m a junior now living in East Campus, and I think I’ve had this same moment two to three times a day, every day, for the past two years. The people that live in East Campus are fantastic, because the East Campus community draws fantastic people in. East Campus draws in people who don’t always fit, people who want a place to live that they can safely call home.

Communities that are strong the way that East Campus is strong aren’t common at other schools. My friends at back in my hometown don’t live in the same place for four years – they move off to apartments after freshman year, or move to fraternities or sororities, or move year to year between sterile, whitewashed dorm rooms in different buildings. Communities like East Campus are common at MIT, though, for some very important reasons:

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I credit East Campus with half of my MIT education

“You can’t do that!”

“You’re not allowed to do that.”

“That’s not safe.”

I hate these phrases with a passion.

I’ve learned to ignore people when they say these things. Even so, when you hear them often, it becomes disheartening.

Why can’t I do it? Do the laws of nature prohibit it? Certainly not. Does my own technical expertise not suffice? Well that can be fixed. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?

Who is disallowing me from doing it? Are there rules or regulations that prohibit it? Let’s analyze the motivation for these rules, and decide why they exist. If they are well-grounded and applicable, we should revisit the design. If they are indeed arbitrary, let’s continue. Sometimes keeping things secret from the rule-makers just adds to the challenge.

What do you mean by “safe?” Would you like me to to reference some relevant published literature on its safety? And justify our deviations from it and their ramifications? What makes you, whose understanding of this consists of a cursory glance, qualified to judge the safety of our meticulously researched setup?

If I listened every time I was told not to do something, it would have halved MIT’s contribution to my education.

That’s right, easily half of my knowledge gained at MIT was due to studying, researching, experimenting, and executing activities that were unnecessary, uncalled for, disallowed, or illegal.

You will probably think this is absurd and blatantly false, or that I should have spent more time on my schoolwork. Well, I graduated in four years with a degree in Course 6-2 and a minor in Course 2. I consider this to be an acceptable course load. But as I work at my job now, I find that about half of the knowledge that I call upon comes from my formal education, and half of it from hacks, personal projects, and the results of spontaneous 3AM experiments performed while at home in East Campus.

“How will we do that?”

“Can we make this safer?”

“Can I help?”

These are the kind of phrases you hear at East Campus. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re surrounded by open-minded people.

Autonomy Breeds Creativity

To Whom It May Concern:

The nonjudgmental atmosphere/culture that is furnished by the East Campus dorms is indubitably one of the most wonderful things I have ever come across in my short time alive. You walk around for your entire life trying to keep yourself quiet because somebody called you weird or some other degrading socially acceptable epithet just for being yourself. Maybe you find a group of friends that you can be “weird” together with, or even just people who tolerate you. But there’s never a feeling of true belonging. Now you come to East Campus, and you’re free. People are excited about what they want to do and not afraid to show it. Ideas mingle and become projects. You find someone who likes that one strange thing that you thought NO ONE ELSE knew about and BAM you have an explosively interesting conversation. And maybe that conversation will lead into something magical: art, engineering, science, you name it. And you can really only have this with a special kind of autonomy that really attracted me to living on the East Side of Campus in the first place. You really feel a great joy and hope for humanity knowing that this culture and these people are around. Knowing that there are places where it doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, that it only matters that you care and are willing to learn is just splendid. This place really teaches you that “hey buddy, you don’t need anyone to tell you how or why you should do things. You have the greatest thinking machine in the universe right in that noggin of yours. You have tools to do whatever you dream of. Go do it!” And that is what I believe is the message of MIT. We’re innovators, movers and shakers, builders and makers. Scientists, architects, artists, imagineers, and we’re all just awesome individuals given the right environment to enliven the life of our minds.

So… yeah! East Campus is great! And so are you!

With hosed regards,
Daniel “Ber” Bespalov

P.S. A “Monkey see, monkey do” mentality won’t make an environment that’s able to nurture anyone into a leader or some other great and vague word that we’re ostensibly being conditioned to become. Restrictions and limits only help to restrain the mind, and eventually just turn us into bureaucrats (not that being a bureaucrat is a terrible thing! I’ve read too much Sci-Fi/Dystopian Fiction! I’m sorry!)

There’s no place like home.

When my family first visited me in EC, my brother told me the building looked like a tenement. My mother promptly responded, “She’s here for the culture!” It’s that simple. A place that is tolerant and accepting, a place that has people that feel like home, makes everything worth it. And part of it is the freedom to express yourself and enjoy the expression of others. There’s a sort of unparalleled openness of discussion, and a fantastic mix of uncensored people who facilitate these sorts of conversation. Nobody is ostracized by being “that one person” who defies the “accepted” norms, because definitions of normal don’t apply on the East Side.

I love recognizing the faces of everyone in the lounge as I walk past, and I love introducing new people to our hall, which isn’t really as scary as you might be led to believe. I love walking out of my door to see the smiling bears on the Grateful Dead mural across from my room, and I love the rainbow and red lights that make waking up a little easier on the eyes. I love the sense of history and tradition that permeates from the very walls themselves, and I love that we’ve created so many stories of our own by just living our lives here. And I’ve gotten so used to the smell of the place that I’m inclined to believe that stockholm syndrome that has developed this far could be classified as love as well.

This summer, I spent three months with exclusively non-MIT students for the first time in several years. And all of them expressed admiration for the sheer amount of experiences I could share about my dorm, about the breadth of things we’d experimented with and the uniqueness of my college life. For the first time, I realized that so many of the great things that I took for granted about the people and place that I lived with were not the regular, sterile dorm life in other universities. The three AM conversations and random baking endeavors, running barefoot through the snow and consoling friends over hot tea, and the bright colored hair and verbal memes I’ve acquired would never have been possible if MIT was like every other college dorm system, where dorms are uniform and regulated to eradicate personality, and most people move off campus because there’s nothing keeping them there.

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MIT’s unique academic rigor is enabled by an undergraduate residential system which is idiosyncratic to MIT, and that is good.

I was asked by some of our students to contribute my point of view to the essays being assembled in this collection. The issue at hand is so much more important to MIT’s success than most of my academic and administrative colleagues seem to understand that I feel compelled to comply with this request. In fact, I would have liked to have spent an extended effort on this essay, collecting my thoughts into a brief but compelling argument of only a few paragraphs in length. Alas, time is against me. With apologies, I have made no attempt to be brief.

I want to add my voice to that of the other writers in this collection in expressing my conviction that MIT’s undergraduate residential system is one of the core elements that contributes to our success as a school. However, I must also express agreement with those writers who point out that the residential system only contributes positively to MIT when it is operating according to certain values — like personal choice, a sense of ownership by the residents, and academic community governance — which our students seem to intuitively understand, but which are being eroded by a series of policy changes that appear to be attempting to bring MIT’s idiosyncratic system more in line with what would be more broadly recognized as modern best practices in the field of student life administration. I have no doubt that this gradual elimination of the natural support system which enabled MIT’s highly demanding academic culture in years past, together with the more recent attempts to replace it with a more managed and controllable system, are the principal causes for the escalation of student stress in unhealthy directions that we have all observed in recent years, and which has been extensively discussed in the news media both inside and out of MIT. To enable their success under the rigors of our academics, we need our students to feel like their living group at MIT is their home, not a temporary shelter owned by an organization hostile to their interests. When we take action to undermine that sense of the home, we insert new sources of stress into the community which carry no educational merit.

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!=

Well yeah, of course!  I had an awesome time at MIT.  I liked it so much I… spent my sophomore spring through junior fall co-authoring a musical about it.

I’m an alum now, and I often think of how damn lucky I was to have gotten a chance to live the “MIT undergraduate experience,” as it’s called.

What made my undergrad experience excellent (unshockingly) was the people I got to live with and around, and the place I got to live.  I spent all four of my undergrad years in Senior Haus, in the same room, actually.  It felt like home to me — yeah, I still remember my first time walking into the courtyard, seeing the leaves, bright green in contrast with the slate building and earth tones of the tree… I don’t mean to be sappy about it, but that’s a very very strong memory for me.

I’m glad I had the chance to choose to live at Senior Haus as an undergrad, because, well, it was a good fit for me.  I liked to keep my door open and talk to people as they passed.  I liked the occasional barbecues, people just talking at desk, the hall GRT’s cats sitting on my psets (you know, because that was the most important thing in the room and they had to assert their dominance… but you gotta love ’em ’cause they’re so darn cute…).  I liked… a lot of stuff, you get the point.

MIT’s dorms in general feel more like home than most other college dorms because of the history that gets built by people choosing to live together, rather than being assigned.  It’s a value that’s hard to advertise or quantify, but it’s a very real value.

When I was a campus tour guide, one of the most frequent questions I was asked was: “What is your least favorite thing about MIT,” and, always, my answer was this: MIT does a lot of things that are wonderful, yet unconventional, and, unfortunately, the direction the school’s been trending is to eliminate anything unconventional in favor of something more… unremarkable and common.

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In Defense of Senior House

Prior to coming to MIT for the summer of 2007 for the Interphase program, I spent the first 18 years of my life living in the same house in the same town with the same friends and the same experiences. I had left my home state precisely twice, and then for less than a week each time. I barely even remembered the experience. The prospect of transplanting my life to a new state 2,000 miles from home for at least four years, living with people I didn’t know, facing the necessity of making new friends for the first time in my life, and having the added pressure of needed to succeed at a school like MIT almost gave me panic attacks. I was terrified for the start of term, especially after the Interphase program taught me that my high school had not prepared me at all for the strenuous academics at MIT.

I had chosen a temporary dormitory solely based on the fact that a man I knew from my home town was a senior in that dormitory. I wanted to be close to someone I knew to ease the transition a little. Soon, I experienced concern about my choice. During Interphase, I met several students who lived in what would become my temporary dormitory and found that other than being superficially similar to them (we were from similar regions of the US, had similar racial backgrounds) I had very little in common with them. I realized that if I were given the choice, I wouldn’t hang out with them. They weren’t the kind of people I sought out for my friends and as such, I worried incessantly about my dormitory decision.

However, I had the good fortune of having a TA during my time in Interphase who lived in Senior House. He and I became good friends and he encouraged me to take a look at all of the dorms during what was then called REX, informing me that if I was unhappy in my temporary dormitory I may be able to move into another one. He emphasized that to properly succeed at MIT, one must feel that their dormitory is a safe haven and not just some building that they were forced to sleep in. He explained further that there was no one-size-fits-all dormitory and that every student feels most comfortable in a particular place and that the incoming freshman must find their niche before they can really be happy. After moving into my room in my temporary dormitory and realizing that I absolutely loathed everything about it, I resolved to find someplace better. At the beginning of REX, I visited all of the dormitories and found a home in Senior House.

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Let there be colour and open doors.

My home is East Campus.

That’s a statement in it of its self, at least with respect to a college dorm. It’s certainly not one that my friends in a more traditional dorms across the country are able to make.

A part of this intense feeling of welcome and comfort is the ability to enter and go as I please, without undergoing recorded observation, and without interacting with security personal who, despite the best of intentions, tend to make the environment reticent of a wartime checkpoint, or perhaps more nefariously, a prison. Security “upgrades” have been effected at many dorms, and they have markedly increased the stress experienced by my friends. Where once a trip to collect mail could be made in PJs or underwear, now the glaring eyes of a camera is a harsh reminder that one is never not under some form of observation. The feeling is not exactly comforting.

Another beautiful aspect of both East Campus and Senior Haus is the ability of residents to artistically modify their respective spaces with intricate and elegant murals, or simply splashes of colour on the otherwise asylum white walls. I spent my first few weeks at MIT in a white walled room. It was terrible, and affecting my ability to focus, and was thankfully easily remedied. I have since moved into a room that has a Mondrian painted the full size of a wall. It’s cliche, but I believe in a balance between the artistic inclinations of the mind, and the more strictly academic. The halls I walk down every morning make me smile, because of the dedication and joy that went into every mural, and I relish the unique environment that has been provided.

MIT is renowned for its start-up culture, and a root cause of this is the ability for students to communicate across grade levels (as is allowed by MIT’s non-grade-specific housing) in an environment that fosters rather represses creativity. This is an invaluable and integral aspect to the success that MIT sees as an institution, and one of the main reasons people love to go here.

MIT is hard, and being in an environment of like-minded people is an important way to deal with the stresses associated with large and difficult workload. The fact that I can keep my door open for my friends to wander in and out, or ask for help is really cool, and the concept that some of the dorms features doors that automatically close, I find slightly distressing.

There’s a lot more to go into, but it really boils down to increasing the personal freedoms of the students, however possible.

 

What makes our dorms great made MIT great

You may or may not know the history behind MIT’s Building 20 – depending on your age, you may have even worked in it at one point. It was torn down when I was three, so I can’t directly relate to it. But when I heard the story of this ugly temporary building, and how much it did for the US in World War 2, and of all of the amazing things and people that happened inside it, I was moved. And when I walk through the building 32D lobby, I generally stop to look at all of the plaques adorning the walls as a monument to that “Magical Incubator”. Reading the things that those who worked in building 20 have to say reminds me of what I think MIT can and should be, and of all the things I love about my home.

(For context: I’m a course 8 sophomore in East Campus.)

1. Passion

“[Because the doors were always open,] as you wandered down the corridors, you saw what was going on in the rooms … In that process, you learned of many wondrous things in addition to your own work.” –Professor Walter E. Morrow

“Sessions typically began around 11 PM and lasted until 3 or 4 in the morning. They would typically sit at a conference table, while we graduate students would sit in the background and listen in.” –Professor Alan V. Oppenheim

“It was always a fairly wonderful mix of people concerned with different disciplines. We got along fairly well together, so that you could always pop over next door and talk with somebody who had nothing to do with what you were doing. Simply because everybody had a passion for doing what they were doing.” –Professor Jerome Y. Lettvin

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve learned more in East Campus than in any academic building. Simply by being in lounges, listening to conversations, getting in arguments and turning to Wikipedia, I’ve learned about topics as diverse as the Riemann-Stieltjes integral, computer security, rope hauling systems, and the Freedom of Information Act, none of which would have ever come up in my physics classes. My recent interest in signal processing and speech recognition is partly spurred by Course 8’s flexible major option, but also by the excitement of a friend of mine who’s worked in those areas and geeked out about them in East Campus.

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