East Campus has a reputation. It’s known as the mysterious and “intense” dorm of people with no shoes and dyed hair. But, not everyone who settles in EC gets flaming pink hair, nor are we all engaged in “intense” activities like building rollercoasters and fire-spinning. As proof, I can assure you that I am definitely not hardc0r3, nor even an average builder. And yet I’ve been happy on the East Side for three years.
That said, East Campus is not a dorm for everyone, but neither is any dorm at MIT. People can be miserable in, say, Next House just as much as in EC. It’s perhaps my favorite aspect of the Institute—the chance to grow in a tight community that fits you.
For this post on East Campus pros and cons, I asked fellow residents for help. I got some excellent responses, which I will sort through, divide into quotes, and present in a nice format in time for freshman Residence Exploration (REX). In the meantime, I’m including some of the responses below in full (with only minor edits). I hope this direct communication helps those of you who weren’t able to visit during CPW and can’t imagine yourself in the active community from the i3 video.
Bonus: For some awesome starting posts about EC culture and lifestyle, visit This Is the East Side blog. Also check out this presentation by Maya K. ‘19, based on an informal survey. (Note from Maya: “This was a survey sent to all the dorm mailing lists asking the residents who feels at home and why, what makes the dorm more or less homey, and what are the best and worst parts of the dorm.”)
Also bonus: word cloud compiled from the responses, which I think characterizes EC pretty well (synonyms grouped together).
— Is the coolest place to live. But actually, EC is full of interesting people with all sorts of opinions and a willingness to talk about them.
— I also think it is the most quintessentially “MIT” dorm. We fix stuff, and we break stuff. We build stuff as a dorm, halls build stuff together, people build lofts in their rooms every year and many people have their own projects from artwork to 3D printers. We talk about physics at parties, or we use the dance floor we built as a hall together. We climb together, we play video games together, we talk about politics together, spin fire together, and do all sorts of other cool stuff together.
— Great location, close to everything.
— There are murals on the walls! You can paint on your own walls and customize your room in almost any way you like.
— East Campus is mostly single rooms.
— East Campus has a lot of culture. I mean a lot of culture. Each hall has its own, and the dorm is the umbrella to each of those cultures. People really care about the culture, in part because it draws a lot of interesting people there and encourages open discussion … and in part because it defines them and they like it.
— The FOMO (fear of missing out) is beyond real. Because people are doing interesting stuff all the time, for a while it feels like you are always missing out on stuff. … Of course, in reality, you are missing out on mostly sleep, or focus on school work, extracurriculars, and personal well-being. But this is something that you learn to deal with in any dorm, and also what PNR [Pass/No Record] is for.
— Since everyone is always doing cool stuff, impostor syndrome is fairly likely to cross your mind in East Campus if you didn’t come here with three patents and a business in the works. Not to worry, this is probably something you would deal with in most dorms. What’s nice about EC is that, if for some reason you feel this way … , someone is probably willing to teach it to you.
— Let’s put it this way: far from the nicest facilities on campus.
— Your parents probably won’t like it, unless you have extra-cool parents.
Pros/Cons (could be be either):
— The nearest food is either in Kendall Square [<5 mins away] or the Stud [Student Center]. EC is cook-for-yourself. This is great for eating on a budget, dealing with allergies, or learning how to cook good food. It is a little annoying if you just want to grab food quickly.
— East Campus is the dorm that never sleeps. I can’t think of a single time where everyone on hall is asleep during the semester … . Great for an exciting lifestyle, not so great for a sense of sanity.
Kathryn J. ‘20:
All the freedoms. If I want to walk around naked, I could (on certain floors). If I wanted to spend all day flopped on a giant foof reading a book, I could do that too without any judgement.
There’s no pressure to conform to anything, which is intensely liberating (flashback to middle-school me, scared of being ‘unpopular’ because of looking/dressing/eating/walking different). People are very accepting and supportive of who you are, leading to an overwhelming sense of community I haven’t found elsewhere.
When I tell my friends I live in EC, most of them say, “Wow I didn’t think you were the East Campus type,” to which I respond, “Well, what’s the ‘East Campus type?'” and they say, “idk not you,” which is always a bit off-putting, probably because I was your stereotypical math-loving Asian girl in high school. On the other hand, some people respond with some version of, “Wow you must be really hardk0r3!” and I’m also slightly confused because I never thought of myself as particularly hardk0r3 or aggressive.
Jacob M. ‘20:
I’m just going to list a bunch of possibly silly things I like about EC:
– There are  doors … I like the multitude of doors because EC is my home, and I shouldn’t have to walk past a security checkpoint to get home when we have the modern tech known as RFID cards and dock locks.
– I woke up at 8:55am and got to my 9am class.
– The food truck will sometimes park right next door.
– My work is a 10-minute walk away.
– I don’t feel like I’m living on someone else’s property ¡I feel like I’m living on my own property!
– There are strong bonds between my floor mates that I feel go beyond casual friendship and into something closer to altruism between family members.
– The courtyard [between East and West parallels] is really cool.
– 30-something steps to the nearest door in building 66 in case it’s miserable outside.
– Living at EC is a no brainer since it’s the best dorm (this one may be slightly biased).
glad to help
What I like about living in EC:
+ Everyone here is strange in a different way; living in EC, you get to see so many different ways to live and be.
+ People in EC encourage you to experiment with your boundaries and try so many new things. I’ve picked up so many hobbies and learned so many skills from the people around me.
+ There’s an incredibly supportive vibe if you want to build or create something. There are a ton of opportunities (Rush, CPW, Bad Ideas, etc.) to be a part of group art or construction projects, or to get money, support, and feedback for your own project.
+ We have a sense of ownership over both the building and the culture. You get total control over what your room looks like. … You also get a tremendous amount of influence on what the community around you is like.
+ Everyone here is strange, and so you feel so much more comfortable being your own strange self around them.
+ East Campus is its own cultural bubble – you can leave the real world far behind.
+ People are up at all hours; if you’re bored, there’s always someone to do something dumb with. See the i3 videos for examples.
+ There’s a general feeling of empowerment – we can do what we want – tempered by the feeling of responsibility that it’s up to us to clean up our own messes.
+ No dining plan means you pick the way you want to live and you don’t get charged through the nose for it.
Cons of living in EC:
+ People tend to put all the cool things they’re doing on display and exaggerate them – there can be a feeling that you’ll never be “hardk0r3 enough”.
+ If you’re a person who’s afraid of missing out, you’re going to have a hard time, because there’s so much going on and you can’t be a part of all of it.
+ People tend to not get enough sleep, and although it’s definitely possible to sleep a lot, you have to make yourself get to bed.
+ East Campus is its own cultural bubble – it can be easy to get caught up in whatever role you’ve taken on locally, and hard to remember who you are and all the things you can do outside of EC or MIT.
+ The building isn’t clean and has a generally grungy vibe – the laundry room sometimes floods, and there’s the occasional roach or mouse.
+ Everyone here is strange. Maybe you don’t want to live with a bunch of weirdos.
Nicholas P. ‘19:
— It’s a center of alternative culture … [where] no one cares what you’re doing unless it inflicts on other people … EC can be more outwardly open about their alternative culture, which in turn allows for people to feel like they can be more alternative … Example: I had green dyed hair for a while; I don’t think i would’ve done that if I wasn’t living in EC.
— EC residents, in my experience, don’t peer pressure other residents into trying to fit into this overall alternative culture.
Con: … It is close to classes, [which] makes you feel like you’re part of the MIT bubble even more than in a dorm like Next House.
[Follow-up] … I definitely see EC as a very socially liberal place with a big emphasis on not caring if you’re straight, gay, a stoner, a straightedge, a vegetarian, a carnivore, etc., as well as not forcing lifestyles that fit into this sphere (Example: I’m a vegetarian; have many friends who choose to eat meat but I never force my vegetarian lifestyle onto them, and they don’t force their carnivore lifestyle onto me).
Maya K. ’19:
Some important take-aways in pros (from bonus survey):
— ~1/3 of the people who took the survey see academic buildings as “an extension of home”; that rises to ~1/2 at East Campus.
— Almost 60% of residents say that East Campus/their hall is their first home.
— Cats, murals, etc are big.
— [Residents’ doors are always open.]
— Cruft are AMAZING: find someone from East Campus, and no matter how old they are, they will welcome you and want to hear stories.
— My personal favorite (although I sometimes question how true it is): “We don’t care what you do, as long as you don’t harm yourself or someone else.”
— Crazy stuff happens all the time.
— Hardcore (not the one with the k0 and 3; that one is dangerous and stupid)
— Hardk0r3 stories (just don’t fuck up yourself!)
— People pushing you to be better.
— It’s intense. [editor’s note: this does depend on floor/friend group]
— It’s not good if you plan on sleeping.
— Studying can be hard if you have a hard time saying “no.”
— [‘Oh man, I’m a fuckup’ can become practically a greeting, It can be a little mentally draining.]
— If you’re not around, you’re going to miss something because of how impromptu everything is.
— You [personally] can have nice things. But, as a dorm, we don’t have nice things.
The most important things to understand about tradeoffs: The freedom we have comes in a large part because East Campus is not a Nice Place: we can paint our walls, wreck our rooms, and have cats because the dorm is a mess. A lot of the freedom here is also [because of the mentality] that freedom trumps manners. [“Don’t be a dick” is a rule, but it’s not always followed (e.g. see ec-discuss).]
[editor’s note: credit for “because EC is home 400ever” tagline also goes to Maya K. ’19]
Thomas S. ‘19:
-truly have the freedom to be who you want and pursue whatever activity you enjoy
-yet, also not pressured to partake in anything you do not wish to
-can modify rooms in many ways
-very close to class, MIT Medical, the T [Kendall Square subway/bus stop, <5 mins away], and convenient in general
-no meal plan
(these last two could either be pros or cons depending on preference)
[Follow-up] … For ropes, I would include that EC, as compared to other MIT dorms, has many people interested in and passionate about climbing, canyoning, caving, rappelling, and playing with ropes. If a 2021 is interested in these activities, either as someone already familiar or someone who wants to learn, then EC definitely has a community for them.
Conclusion: You’ll know if you fit in East Campus (or not). Visit us during REX, talk to people, see different halls. Don’t be put off by giant construction projects in the courtyard led by people with rainbow hair and no shoes. You will find people with a variety of interests, just as anywhere at MIT. Give EC a chance during REX and don’t fear to put it as your first choice in the Housing Lottery (which closes today!).
Note to parents: EC (and Random Hall) are significantly cheaper than other dorms, especially compared to dorms with dining halls. A cook-for-yourself lifestyle is cheaper, healthier, more convenient, and saves time, even for people who can’t cook (like me, see here). The building is old, but not a hazard, and, by design, is virtually indestructible by fires and natural disasters. Residents follow safe construction/fire-spinning/etc practices (EHS-approved).