East Side Culture is the best of MIT

I’m a senior research scientist at a major technology company in Silicon Valley.  I teach at Stanford. I’ve seen, worked with and hired a lot of really smart people. I’ve also been an educational counselor for MIT, interviewing high school students, for something like twelve years.

I think in many ways, East Side culture – and I mean that writ large, encompassing EC, Senior House, Tep, Random House, Bexley and so on – is not just the best thing about MIT, but has shown itself to be the bellweather of MIT culture, and I think there’s two examples of that that seem particularly relevant.

First, MIT has always had an emphasis on building, on hacking, on creating, on building. Nowhere is that so exemplified as in the places that build roller coasters in their courtyards, that set up huge fire pits, that have laser light shows and couches hanging from the ceiling. There’s an emphasis on collaboration, on learning through doing, and that’s exemplified by the East Side.

Second, the East Side has also been a bastion of tolerance and acceptance. Their attitudes to homosexuality, to the role of women, to the essential multiculturalism represent the very best of MIT.  It reflects a sort of acceptance, support, and diversity which is and should be the hallmark of MIT today. That’s the sort of cultural bellweather that the East Side represents. The East Side is about diversity, not just in terms of numbers, but also epistemologically, culturally, and very likely technologically.

Chancellor, I enjoin you to get to know these 10% or so of undergraduates who inhabit the (cultural) East Side. They are the people who will change the world. They are the people I want to hire and the people I want to work with. They’re MIT’s greatest asset.

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