I am a former Senior House resident, from 2007-2011, and I find it baffling that upperclassmen move in day is after REX. It makes no sense. The value (to me) in MIT’s residential system is that you can choose to live with people with whom you share common interests and you can be apart of a longstanding culture or a community instead of a generic freshmen dorm where you would get some random roommate like in most colleges.
REX is a chance to explore different dorms and figure out where you might want to live. Even if you don’t choose a dorm you visited, you might meet cool people there and hang out there sometimes, and it gives you a chance to learn different aspects of MIT that you wouldn’t get from a website or a brochure. It also has free food. What is there not to love?
However, I find it a glaring flaw that the upperclassmen move in after this process. If they aren’t a REX chair or a desk worker or qualify for some other exemption, they are excluded from the process, which makes it harder for the freshmen to get a genuine perspective on what the dorms are like and it makes it harder for the upperclassmen to welcome the freshmen to MIT, and as an upperclassmen, that was one my favorite things about school starting again: making food for people or telling embarrassing stories about our hall mates. I think these things should be encouraged.
When I was a freshman, I did an FPOP and when I came to my dorm for the first time, I found it creepy. There was barely anyone in my suite. I thought I lived in a ghost dorm where people never come out of their rooms only to later find out my temporary suite mates hadn’t been allowed to move in yet, so the rooms were just empty. I enjoyed my FPOP. It was fun, but it would have been nicer to come home to a suite with people in it.
I have no first hand knowledge as to why the upperclassmen move in later, but I have heard (from a friend who debated this with an administrator) that it is because upperclassmen are weird, they will scare the freshmen’s parents, and those parents won’t leave their kids at MIT. I think this is ridiculous. If the MIT administration finds its own student weird and scary, then I wonder why they want to work here. Assuming they don’t and their opinion is merely paternalistic, I think their opinion is unfounded.
Every year, about 1000 freshmen come to MIT. Most of them are weird. It’s one of the reasons why MIT is awesome. I would find it odd that a parent with a weird kid was alarmed or concerned that their child is going to go to school with other weird kids. For many of them, MIT might be the first school where their weirdness is appreciated and parents might feel relieved that their kid finally fits in somewhere.
Furthermore, moving into a (relatively) empty dorm is creepy. When I was a junior, I had one freshman move into my hall and she contemplated moving out of the building because she didn’t think anyone hung out at Senior House because she didn’t see anyone during the day. Many of the upperclassmen who did qualify for early move ins were at work so when she came with her parents, they saw no one. This was not a good welcome, and I know that MIT students can and want to do better. They just need the opportunity to do so.
Ultimately, I found Senior House to be awesome, but it could be more awesome if upperclassmen were allowed to move in earlier.