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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

Home safe by Mollie B. '06

Bad guys don't hang out in the Infinite.

I am back in Boston, sitting on my comfy couch after a lovely weekend spent in Columbus (where I ordered my wedding dress, yay! Now I just have to wait six months for it to come in). Like many of the members of the class of 2010 who are straggling onto campus over the next few days, I survived my flight into Logan Airport, even though I didn’t think I would at right at the end. Logan is (rather unfortunately, in my opinion) located right on the Massachusetts Bay, and I always get a little nervous on the descent into the airport — the plane just keeps going lower and lower, and you can see all the sailboats and people sunning on the beach, and then you can see the colors of their towels, and you still can’t see the airport, and now you can pick out individual birds on the ground, and where is the runway, and you start to think to yourself, “In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a personal flotation device,” and then thump! You land in Boston and everything’s okay and you swear you’re never going to fly again.

Maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, my mom told me while I was home that I ought to write something about safety on campus, because she was worried about sending me off to school in a big city four years ago, and she thinks lots of other parents are probably worried too. And so… safety on campus, or “why you are safe on campus, even if you are about as street-smart as the average hole in the wall”.

I will say first that I am a girl, and a panicky transplanted cowtown girl at that. I have very little common sense, and when I got here I didn’t even know how to cross streets in the city, let alone how to tell if I was in mortal peril or not. I still don’t really know how to tell if I’m in mortal peril, but that’s why I have an imposing-looking fiance. And at least I have learned how to cross busy streets: if the light is green for the line of cars parallel to you, go! If the light is green for the line of cars perpendicular to you, don’t!

MIT does have an urban campus, and we are a quick walk from Boston in one direction and Cambridge’s Central Square in the other. Despite our location, though, we’re pretty isolated from the nastier aspects of city living; the quarter-mile of river between us and Boston helps a lot in keeping us and the city separate. And few Cantabridgians come as far down as MIT’s campus — there’s a lot more for them to do somewhere more bustling, like Harvard Square.

Another deterrent to unsavory characters is the campus police force. They’re pretty visible around campus on foot, on bikes, and in cruisers, and they offer seminars and other resources to keep students safe.

Crime on campus is pretty rare, and violent crime is almost unheard of. The most common crime complaint is stolen food from the common kitchens — of course, this is sometimes hungry suitemates, but there was actually a rash of crimes a few years ago which were too widespread to be attributed to other students. They eventually caught the thief with a backpack full of frozen food… it was sort of bizarre. Of course, more expensive items get stolen sometimes too, but that pretty much exclusively happens when people don’t lock their room doors; locking your room door will stop theft in the dorms. Except theft of frozen food, apparently.

EDIT, to answer the question below: The vast majority of crime at MIT is committed by non-MIT-affiliated people. Sometimes your roommates/suitemates/floormates will eat your cookies, but mostly you can call them on it and make them pay for the pizza next time you order or something. :)

Students who are in the city at night can take the Saferide shuttles until 2:30 AM on weekdays and 3:30 AM on weekends. There are four shuttles (Boston East/West, Cambridge East/West), and they all stop at 77 Massachusetts Avenue. You can even track them on the internet if you’re not sure when they’re going to show up. (I should note that I feel like the major purpose of Saferide is really student laziness rather than student safety, but you know, six of one, half dozen of the other.)

Finally, it is safe to roam campus at all hours of the night, for two basic reasons.
1. Much of campus is connected via tunnels and hallways, so you can get from the T stop in Kendall Square to 77 Massachusetts Avenue using well-lit, well-traveled paths. Bad guys don’t hang out in the Infinite.
2. On a campus full of night owls, geniuses, and grad students, there’s always somebody else up roaming the halls. Even at 3 in the morning, there’s a comfortable cadre of compatriots on Amherst Alley or the Infinite.

Any other questions about personal safety?

Questions — lots

1. Mike asked,

I have questions about getting fundnig at MIT graduate school. I am interested in my academic advisor’s project(I indicated this interest in my SOP), but a few months ago he told me that the funding in this area is “extremely tight”.( I didn’t even start to ask). So right now, should I ask him for the RA position, or should I just give it up and go to other professors for RA offerings?

Well, you’re asking the wrong kid — everybody in biology gets fellowships, no RA or TA necessary, so I haven’t a clue about funding issues. My field is extremely spoiled, and we like it that way. I will say that it probably wouldn’t hurt to ask your advisor.

2. a sophomore asked,

i’m gonna be a sophomore next year and i rly wanna take 7.02 but the site says that it’s a lottery class and that sophomores are 2nd to last on the priority list. how do i max. my chances; i rly wanna take it in the fall.

Well, the good thing is that there aren’t as many juniors and seniors who try to take the class each year as there are sophomores — so all of the juniors and seniors, and many of the sophomores, get in. You’ll maximize your chances if your schedule is flexible and you can fit in either the Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday sections.

3. Alberto asked,

How’s the pay for UROP’s?

Campus minimum wage for UROPs is currently $9/hr, and that’s how much you’ll be paid if you go through the UROP office. If you’re funded by your supervisor, you might make more — I made $10/hr all three years of my UROP, and Adam makes almost $20/hr.

4. Anonymous asked,

“Despite the disdain many MIT students profess for tradition, many MIT students and graduates wear an MIT class ring, which is large, heavy, distinctive, and recognizable from a distance.”

You said that quote is TRUE yet RIGHT after it you said “We love this school, you just won’t find people admitting it in public.” I don’t understand…

Haha, I don’t know how to be less confusing. MIT kids will rarely admit out loud that they love MIT (I’m an exception, I guess), yet most of us buy and wear a big, clunky, easily-recognizable symbol of the school. I mean, surely you weren’t expecting us to be completely internally consistent?

5. Adam Spanbauer asked,

I have a very deep, and very philosophical question for you to answer…


Because you love it. :) The only reason to do anything.

6. Anonymous asked,

I’m considering a double major at MIT in physics and math and I was wondering how you managed to take all the required classes from both courses and also met the credit limit. Did you run into any complications? Also, how much credit is normally awarded for UROPs? Thanks!

Well, I took a lot of classes! I took a few 75-unit terms, which are hard for sure, but that’s what you have to do if you really want to double-major. My class plan is here. I never really ran into any scheduling problems, but that’s partially because I was really flexible about which classes to take — if you lay down a concrete plan for yourself, that’s asking for trouble. You have to allow for schedule conflicts, not to mention your own changing interests and the right balance of hard and not-so-hard classes.

The amount of UROP credit you get depends on how much you work — you get one unit of credit for each hour you work per week on average. I got 12 units of credit one semester and 15 units another; I’m not sure what the “average” number is, but I suspect that a lot of people just get 12 units because that makes the UROP the same as a regular class.

7. Drew asked,

Is the hacker’s map on the inside of the ring? And what year do we get the rings?

Yup, it’s on the inside. You will get your ring sophomore year; the committee that designs the ring (RingComm) is selected at the end of freshman year, they design the ring during the fall, and the design is revealed at a class-wide event in mid-February. After the premiere, everybody orders the rings, which arrive at another class-wide event in late April/early May.

8. Leo Luo asked,

One irrelavent question, I plan to have one(at least) school-supplies-shopping journey after planned arrival on Aug.26 by plane. Is there a Walmart around and how do I carry all the stuff without a car?

There’s not an easily accessible Walmart, unfortunately. There are a few Targets served by the T, but their convenience is not necessarily related to their distance from MIT.

The closest Target is in Somerville, and is about a mile away from the Lechmere Green Line T stop. You just get off the T and walk a mile next to route 28. Obviously, this is less than ideal if you’re carrying stuff.

The next-closest the one in Watertown, which can be reached by taking the #1 bus to Central Square, then switching to the #70 or #70A bus. The Target is about 2 miles down Western Avenue, right across from the Arsenal Mall. This is also somewhat less than ideal, unless you have a car.

The third-closest Target is very close to the Andrew Red Line T stop. The store is just over a bridge after exiting the stop, and there’s even a little shuttle that runs back and forth if you don’t like to walk. This is my favorite T-accessible Target, mostly because I like neither walking nor buses.

As to how to carry stuff without a car… that’s the not-fun part. You should have seen Adam and me try to get back to our apartment earlier this summer with a new air conditioner and a trash bin full of other stuff. It was not fun. Some people buy little shopping carts for this purpose, which I heartily endorse. They only cost about $30, and you will more than recoup the money in saved time and frustration.

9. Anonymous asked,

I heard that people get two brass rats- one gold and one silver. Why would you do that?

Well, the not-practical reason is that a lot of people like to keep the gold one as the “nice” one that they wear for interviews and formal events. The practical reason is that there’s usually a deal that if you buy a gold one, you get a stainless steel one for a very reduced price, so getting two really doesn’t cost all that much more than getting one.

10. kash asked,

Hey, what kind of GPA does it take to get into MIT? 3.75?, 4.0?, 4.25? what general area, and if you don’t mind what did you or any friends have?

To be totally honest, I don’t even remember what my GPA was in high school — it was lo so many years ago, you know? :) I got a couple of B+’s (2-3) and a handful of A-‘s (5-6?), so my GPA wasn’t perfect.

There’s really no cutoff, though — if you get a lower GPA while taking very challenging classes, that will be noted.

3 responses to “Home safe”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Are the thefts at MIT usually committed by adult strangers or by actualy MIT students?

  2. Leo Luo says:

    Thank you Mollie for the amazingly detailed answer. Details make me feel excited.

    I checked all the bus stops and places you linked, man, I feel so powerless without a car.

    Isn’t there a delivery-to-door option offered by some of the superstores?


  3. Charlotte says:

    Special thanks to Mollie’s mum!!

    P.S. A short note to all- having a safe campus doesn’t mean one should lower his/her guard, take care, especially if you’re a girl (sigh…).