Sean Robinson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Adulthood is a time of responsibility and privilege where issues such as finance, health and balance, shelter, citizenship, and values system definition are largely left to the individual to establish. Which responsibilities and privileges of adulthood should be expected of all members of the MIT community, and which should be developed over time for one or more segments? What must occur within the residential system to foster that development?
One of my most wonderful memories from my time as a new arrival in my first week at MIT is that *ALL* of the "responsibilities and privileges of adulthood" were expected of me from the moment I showed up. (Since then, I've seen that a little of this perception was illusion, and that current policy and trends in policy change have reduced the amount to which this is actually true). There was no babying, no coddling. Most MIT students (yes, even newly arrived freshman) are totally capable and willing of taking on these burdens. Indeed, it was my experience (and that of most of my fellow students) that once freed to make adult decisions without the interference of someone who might not truly understand the scenario at-hand (whether that be a parent or an MIT administrator), the decisions I made about my life were usually of higher quality than those that had been made for me in the past.
So, "Which should be expected of all members of the MIT community"?. All of and more than what is currently expected. The only thing that should be left to develop over time is intellectual and professional prowess (This is already done in a superior manner by MIT's academic departments).
"What must occur...to foster that development?" If it is openly made known that a high level of maturity is expected of all members of the community, then normal living- group type interactions will go to further and strengthen the maturity of the members. As long as the interaction between members of the living groups is strong enough, the attitude that everyone is an adult will self-reinforce.
If the administration feels it has to "do" something, then the establishment of an "honor code", or some such thing, --together with students and faculty--which states the behavior expected of community members would help. Setting down and eforcing some set of rules, however, would not help. Students resent rules, mostly because, well, in all honesty, many students feel intellectually superior to the administration and don't see why, a priori, they should do what the administration says.
(This all also bears on Question 4; MIT should only acknowledge that it is the *student's* decision to be here, not the parent's. The parent isn't doing the work, and--believe me--one can only survive MIT's firehose if one really, really wants to be here.)
MIT students tend not to respond very positively to marketing buzzwords like "proactive", "paradigm shift", and "capstone". Like our professors, we prefer hard work and results instead of just talk about how to start going about work. (Sorry, that's not very constructive. It had to be said, though, because I have the feeling that most of the students that administrator's have the pleasure of interacting with are either brown-nosers or Managment majors, both of which are perfectly happy with empty, meaningless buzzwords).
I hope you find the rest of my comments constructive. I believe strongly that this discussion and project are very, very important.