The banner of this site says “we call it home for a reason”, and I think that really sums up why I care about Random Hall. Random is home. Let me say that again: at most other schools dorms are a place you rent a room to sleep, maybe eat, and if you’re lucky even talk to friends; at MIT, especially on the east side of campus, the dorms are home. This is why MIT students consider our dorms such an important part of their identity, and it is why we get angry and defensive if someone else tries to come in and change our homes in ways we don’t like. It’s why we often live in the same dorm, even on the same floor, for all four years; it’s why we remain friends with our floormates, hallmates, and suitemates long after we leave the Institvte.
Let’s talk about the good parts first. Dorms are home because we choose them, rather than being assigned by someone who thinks they know us better than we do. Dorms are home because we have some ownership over our rooms and floors — and often keep them from year to year, murals, custom furniture, and all. Dorms are home because the artifacts we leave can outlast us: a mural painted before the freshmen were born, a cookbook left by a recent graduate, a couch or bedframe whose original and current owners have never even met. Dorms are home because we can set our own standards for noise, for murals, for music, for clothedness, for the cleanliness of the kitchen, and for how we treat each other. And dorms are home because we take care of each other, whether it’s asking after a person who hasn’t been seen in a few days, or walking to MGH in the middle of a snowstorm to help a friend get home safely from a minor surgery.
And that’s why even in the best of times students are a bit skeptical when someone comes in and, for example, wants to redesign our kitchens. When instead it’s installing an outside worker who decides whether our friends can enter our home, it’s hard for us to accept that even if it’s done in a legitimate effort to make our home safer. It’s why when we’re suddenly told that a new person who clearly isn’t one of us — a housing employee — will be moving in at the end of the summer, we loudly ask why we weren’t told earlier. It’s why when we’re told we’re no longer allowed to stay in our homes over the summer, we aren’t the happiest. It’s because we care about our homes, and we’re worried that each change moves us a little closer to this place we live not feeling like home.
And the value of the dorms feeling like home cannot be understated. MIT is hard, and our homes and communities are the first step of our support systems. They give us energy in good times — there’s nothing like coming home to a kitchen full of your 13 best friends — and they support us in bad times. We learn from each other: the finer points of category theory, how to run a student organization, how to give a hug. I know I couldn’t have made it through MIT doing as much as I did without Random, and I know I’m far from the only one. In the end, this is why I care about making sure Random can be home for the next generation of students to come through the Institvte.