Starting this post has been very difficult for me. I feel like I am expected to talk extensively about the hacking culture of the east side dorms and how it has helped me develop into a perfect academically inclined butterfly. To be honest, I can’t say whether or not my living group has been a net positive or negative for the state of my gpa. That’s not to say that I haven’t learned anything from my dorm or my hall. In fact, I could list endless skills that I have picked up just from living where I do; skills that had I lacked, I never would have had the confidence to take certain classes or reach certain goals. However, when I ruminate on my experiences at MIT and specifically the impact my hall has had on me, I don’t think about my academics. I think back to social mistakes and successes, responsibilities earned, hard lessons learned, failed relationships, and longstanding friendships. Since I feel like I have more of a right to speak on these subjects with passion derived from experience, that is where I will make most of my point.
Previous posts have mentioned the self-regulated social structure of East Campus and why it is important. I want to go deeper and explain how extensive our support networks can be. Each hall in East Campus has 2 obvious sources of support which are GRTs and hall chairs. The dorm acts almost as a blown up version of a hall that has Student-elected Executives who act similarly to hall chairs on a grander scale. As well, the House Master is akin to a GRT for the dorm. I have never been part of EC Exec so I cannot adequately comment on their struggles and responsibilities. I do want to say that from my observation, they have always done an amazing job of shouldering a million responsibilities so that the rest of us can go on living our lives the way we want to. I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend that the Exec’s job over the past few years has seemed to become our diplomat to the administration, a more and more stressful job.
A position I can comment on is that of the hall chair, which I held for 2 years. Hall chairs are elected every year by their hall to be people of kind nature, solid scheduling skills, and nebulous authority. I feel like Hall chairs are a good representation of my favorite part of EC culture, everyone’s drive to look out for each other. I think this drive is facilitated by the mixture of different ages in one living group. When seniors live and work with freshmen, they desire to look out for them and help them avoid oft repeated mistakes. There is so much I learned, socially and academically, from the upperclassmen on my hall throughout my MIT career. I have made … plentiful … mistakes but for every memory of a failure or a stressful incident, there’s a memory of love & support from the members of my hall.
I want to also point out the amount of support and care I have received from our Graduate Resident Tutors (GRTs). Our GRTs have been here for as long as I have (a good long while, yay ninth term) and it’s hard to find the words to describe how much they’ve positively impacted our community as a whole as well as me, personally. The truly excellent thing about them is that they’ve never had to act as RAs. They were never people whose job it was to report us for misdeeds. In fact, they were usually there to help us handle the consequences of our mistakes. They are just MIT students like us who are as just as much a part of our family as any under-grad. They have been a friendly ear for anyone on hall for issues ranging from silly to absolutely serious. I personally count them as dear friends and that is why I hate to see them awkwardly explain how they’ve been forced to be mandatory reporters for petty things like alcohol violations. To me, I feel insulted on their behalf that their higher ups would see that as an essential use of their time and skills. It displays a clear lack of understanding of what they do and why they are such essential members of our family.
This past Friday was the career fair, and with the career fair came the influx of recent alumnae. The first question out of most Alumnae’s mouths was “Where are the new freshmen? Can I meet them? Oh my God, they won’t know who I am!” The new freshmen are seen as the newest additions to our eclectic yet super loving family. Accepting them, teaching them new things, and looking out for them comes a second nature to most residents. There’s so much we do to protect our little communities. In the last two years, with the help of several friends, I helped plan and give a sit down talk to the freshmen about their boundaries and safety. This talk was initiated by people who dealt with highly stressful events as young college students and wanted to do all they could to help inform and protect others. There is so much you can learn from people who’ve lived their lives in the same environment as you that you can’t get from a mandatory sexual-assault video quiz. Other halls have heard of what we did and started to implement it themselves. This is just one example of supportive action taken by the strong communities here in EC.
All of our hall families in EC are unique, yet they are all precious to their members. I am fiercely protective of all the residents of my hall. My younger friends joke around and call me Mom. They tease me for my mothering nature, the way I worry just a bit too much about them. Little do any of them really know, that I owe them everything and more. I wasn’t always “Mom,” I was once just a messed up kid that got hit hard in the face by a brick called The Real World. My hall has saved me more times than I can count. Like an unfortunately large number of us, I’ve struggled with depression here at MIT. Every time, my community has been there. They’ve just been there. Always. When I needed them and when I didn’t. Like a loud, loving parasite you can’t scratch off. There’s someone awake 24/ fucking 7 and everyone cares. I’ve never felt like there was no one I could talk to here. That’s because, like so many, here at MIT, I found my true home.