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September 23, 1987 - Image 34

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-09-23

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kind of guys who will bet their
Spock ears on naming every ac-
tor who has played Dr. Who. For
starters, the campus is not just
guys: woman make up more
than one-third of MIT's enter-
ing freshmen this year. The
school also strives to promote
racial and ethnic diversity: last
year its administration berated
itselfin anextraordinary public
report that said minority stu-
dents had suffered prejudice
throughout MIT's history. The
mea culpa and new recruiting
tactics apparently paid off:
applications from "underrep-
resented" minorities (exclud-
ing Asian-Americans) jumped
38 percent this year and fhinor-
ity admissions have edged up to
13 percentofthe incomingclass,
from 9 percent just two years
ago. More than half the stu-
dents receive financial aid.
Fun and games: Whatever the
number of dweebs, they do not
dominate the student body.
Robert Vanderheide, a gradu-
ate student in Materials Sci-
ence, says: "Everybody knows
at least one or two real nerds,
but they're not all over the
place-and they're certainly
not in the majority." The dorms
and fraternity houses, some
withvistasofBoston'sBackBay
across the Charles River, spon-
sor active social programs. In-
tramural athletics-24 sports'
worth-attract two-thirds of
MIT students, and more than
500 take part in organized mu-
sic groups. Says Jonathan Rich-
mond, a music critic for the stu-
dent newspaper who attended
several institutions before com-
ing to MIT for graduate work,
"I've nowhere seen such a fine
display of musicianship from

PHOTOS BY RICK FRIEDMAN-BLACK STAR
Renowned research: Student Vicky Rowley controls a robot

Cultures
MIT sets out to leaven its premier
science diet with humanities

1

J. ROSS BAUGHMAN-VISIONS

Massachusetts Institute of Tech-
You seldom find graduates of the
nology with unadorned hands.
They commonly sport the all-gold
class ring, which depicts a beaver,
the MIT mascot. Yes, they refer to the keep-
sake as the "brass rat." But that's typical
of the ambivalent affection many MIT
alums feel for the high-pressure, high-pay-
off educational experience that has been
comparedto"drinkingfrom afire hose."
In return for the pressure and pain,
MIT's 9,700 students can tap the awesome
intellectual power assembled on its clut-
tered, architecturally diverse 142-acre
campus in Cambridge, Mass. Renowned re-
search programs devise new ways for com-
puters to think and new ways for genes to

assemble; there is even a department de-
voted to the study of the brain. In the 1,000-
member faculty shine six Nobel laureates,
including economist Paul A. Samuelson
and physicist Samuel C. C. Ting, and such
other pioneers as linguist Noam Chomsky.
But the 122-year-old school is not content to
rest on its considerable laurels. It has em-
barked upon a curriculum reform designed
to marry what C. P. Snow called "the two
cultures" of humanities and science.
MIT's reputation, inevitably, is that of
a sanctuary for soulless techno-geeks. Sev-
enty percent of the students focus on
engineering or science; the combined ver-
bal-math SAT score for this year's fresh-
men, 1,361, is among the highest in the
nation. Yet MIT hardly exists solely for the

students." How do the students fit it all in?
"You get your work done very quickly, very
intensely-then you play," says recent
graduate David Altshuler, who acted in one
of MIT's four drama groups. Barely crack-
ing a smile, Robert Scanlon, who teaches in
the School of Humanities and Social Sci-
ences, jokes, "They even sleep more effi-
ciently here."
MIT also boasts endearing quirks. At the
end of the school year, design students
construct small wheeled robots that fight
it out before cheering crowds. And where
but at MIT would you find a massive, stu-
dent-run library devoted entirely to sci-
ence fiction? The 30-year-old MIT Science
Fiction Society, abbreviated MITSFS but
pronounced "misfits" by its devotees, has

18 NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS

SEPTEMBER 1987

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