The dorm has been known for decades as a creative if countercultural environment – complete with omnipresent murals and roaming cats – for an eclectic group of students that sometimes need extra support, including students of color, LGBTQI students or those who are low-income or the first in their family to attend college.
Part of the response was a petition against the Pilot 2021 changes signed by nearly 1,400 alumni dating back to 1958, including 111 pages of signatures, pleading for Barnhart to recognize how Senior House “has always been a refuge for students who feel like they don’t fit in elsewhere on campus.”
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As an alumnus of Senior House, I will tell you that MIT’s current move to shut down Senior House is a blow to the creative spirit that the dorm has fostered. It was a move of collective punishment involving an entire dorm, based upon the actions of a couple of people in that dorm. According to MIT President, Rafael Reif’s last commencement speech, they like think of MIT graduates as the "product" churned out by MIT, like a bunch of iPhones. The Institute has become intolerant of the outliers, such as those embraced and fostered by Senior House, and has attempted to homogenize them.
Most of the admins at MIT do not grok the needs of “first time away from home” brilliant and creative teenagers dealing with harsh realities of MIT (treats both undergraduate as well as graduate students horribly) and how the forming of Tribe such as Senior House is a necessity to survival at MIT. None of them spent time as an impressionable teens – not fitting in at HS or any school until MIT and even at MIT, slightly weird and off beat – at a hostile environment called MIT. All they see is the non-conformist aspect, which was at one point celebrated by equally brilliant professors and others at the faculty level; but they have all been swept aside by the “we must produce well-behaved engineering drones” philosophies of the mediocrity.