Section II: Extracurriculars and Community Life
“The educational triad involves treating research, academics, and community as equal contributors to the education students receive here, integrating them as much as possible to create a coherent, unified educational product not available elsewhere."
— MIT Task Force on Student Life and Learning, 2.2
The MIT community plays a fundamental role in the inspiration and development of students who will use their talents and knowledge to change the world for the better, acting as de facto ambassadors of the Institute’s mission. MIT’s living groups, student organizations, communal facilities, and student life programs all play a fundamental role in creating this rich educational environment. The following topics analyze the community’s role in student life and suggest areas for future improvement:
- Community Culture and Standards – Institute culture shapes the daily lives as well as the personalities of students, and is firmly tied to the living groups and organizations to which students belong. The scope and importance of students' choice in pursuing their own interests in each of these aspects, and the self-developed and self-owned nature of the culture that results, are the strengths that underlie MIT's school spirit and give the place a special kind of creative intensity. MIT must be careful not to let organizational bureaucracy or “professionalization” diminish the powerful experiential learning and risk-taking that are crucial to forging and sharpening our innovative “MIT edge”.
- Extracurricular and Community Resources – While student culture is largely shaped by students themselves, culture would not survive without the programs, financing, and general structure that the Institute provides. Given that these scarce resources are allocated for students, it only makes sense that students, both undergraduate and graduate, be involved in every step of the process and that transparency and accountability be the basic stance about Institute expenditures. We are especially concerned by the profitization of the commons, the pricing of basic services, and the squeezing out of vibrant traditional providers.
- Orientation – The first few months at the Institute are the most formative ones for students, setting the stage for what they will be able to take away from their overall experience. Recent shifts in administration have greatly diminished undergraduate students’ ability to shape the first-year experience for their successors. Graduate student orientation, run entirely by students at the Institute level, has thrived over the past years, but remains too disconnected at the departmental level and underappreciated as a whole, leaving students in some schools or departments underserved or isolated.
- Personal Development – Much of students’ personal development takes place informally through daily interactions, and is also facilitated by MIT’s “ownership culture,” in which students assume responsibility for managing their own lives. Strong support is needed for the self-governance structures that support students’ personal development outside of the classroom. The Institute would benefit from re-examining its formal mentorship programs and adding to those that act as building blocks to foster mentorship of and among students in a manner that effectively supplements their informal training.
- Balance – Achieving a balance between work and life is essential to personal and professional success anywhere, and the Institute is no exception. MIT students oftentimes lose perspective of lifestyle balance when consumed by the intensity of their work and activities. Student-families can find it particularly difficult to balance their commitments. Our community needs further and ongoing efforts to promote the development of balanced lifestyles to breed responsible graduates and global citizens.