The Commonwealth of Massachusetts approved William Barton Rogers’ charter for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1861. But the Civil War began a few months later, so MIT held its first classes in rented rooms in downtown Boston. The first official MIT buildings were built in 1866 in Boston’s Back Bay.
In 1870, MIT admitted its first female student, though there wasn’t a substantial influx of women until the first wing of McCormick Hall, a women’s dorm, was built in 1963. Over the next few decades, MIT expanded until its Boston campus could no longer contain it, so in 1916, the university moved to Cambridge.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology sits on 168 acres in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and runs along the Charles River Basin. It’s divided in half by Massachusetts Avenue, which separates the dorms and student life buildings (to the west) from the academic buildings (to the east). MIT’s campus reflects its students’ and faculty’s techie mindset—it’s designed for efficiency, not style, with an “infinite corridor” that allows students to move between classes without going outdoors.
The university’s technical bent shows in its naming system, too. In addition to a name (which not all buildings have), every building has a numerical designation. Though students call dorms by name, they usually refer to academic and office buildings by number.
MIT recently built a number of new buildings, including Simmons Hall, a dorm; the Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center; the Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences; and a Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex. The student center isn’t actually in the center of campus, but lies along the southwestern edge.
MIT’s architecture is considered progressive, though inconsistent, ranging from post-war modern architecture to contemporary “starchitecture.”
MIT is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a city of about 100,000 people near Boston. Cambridge is known as liberal—its City Hall issued the first legal applications for same-sex marriage licenses—as well as racially and economically diverse. As with nearby Boston, Cambridge has a lot of college students, and there’s always something for them to do.
Cambridge is composed of several squares, each with its own dynamic. Kendall Square has lots of offices and a renowned biotech industry; Central Square features ethnic restaurants; Harvard Square is home to (drum roll!) Harvard University; Porter Square has a strip mall; Inman Square offers nightlife, restaurants, boutiques and a park; and Lechmere Square has a large, interior shopping mall.
One of MIT’s most fabled traditions involves playing complicated, well-engineered “hacks,” or pranks, like dissembling a car and reassembling it on a building rooftop.
Students stage an annual East versus West Water War, a competition between the two sides of campus at the beginning of the school year. “Usually, each team designs a huge contraption in an effort to destroy the other team,” Asha Martin ’10 reports.
MIT students participate in Charm School. As reported by Asha Martin ’10, “Charm School takes place each January and it is a series of classes on manners especially designed for MIT students. One of the classes is Nerdy Pick-up lines.”
Herbert Kalmus (1903) invented Technicolor.
Benjamin Netanyahu (1976) is a former Israeli prime minister.
I.M. Pei (1940) is an acclaimed architect of the Modernist tradition.
Lawrence H. Summers (1975) is a former president of Harvard University.
John Sununu is a Republican senator from New Hampshire.
MIT’s student athletics program, the largest in the US, includes 41 varsity teams. They compete in the NCAA’s Division III, the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, the New England Football Conference and, for crew, the NCAA’s Division I and Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges (EARC).
MIT’s teams, the Engineers, feature the school’s beaver mascot (it’s “nature’s engineer”).
MIT’s pistol, track and field, swimming and diving, cross country, crew, fencing and water polo teams have been particularly successful. But, as Asha Martin ’10 reports, “athletics are not a huge part of life at MIT. However, the team with the largest fan base is probably the men's basketball team.”
MIT’s mascot is the beaver because it’s “nature’s engineer.”
MIT students’ mantra is “IHTFP,” which, depending on the mood, can stand for “I Hate This F***ing Place” (common during exam period) or “I Have Truly Found Paradise.”
Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones resigned in 2007 after admitting that she misrepresented her academic degrees on applying for the position in 1979.
Many students and grads wear a big class ring called the “Brass Rat,” with the MIT seal and class year surrounding a beaver.
MIT guarantees on-campus housing for all undergraduates. Unlike at many schools, where dorms are assigned, MIT students select their dorm and floor upon arrival. There’s also a substantial Greek and co-op scene—many students live in their fraternity and sorority houses or in independent living groups, called FSILGs.
Dorms at MIT are divided between East and West Campus: the dorms to the east are generally more creative and artistic, while those on the west side of campus tend to be where the ‘typical’ college student would live.
There seems to be greater variation in type among the West Campus dorms. McCormick which is an all-girls dorm tends to be very strict and uptight, while Baker is where the majority of the students that really like to party live or go. Burton Conner, Next House, and Simmons all contain mixed group of people. MacGregor is reserved for those people that really want to have some alone time while at MIT. New House is the most diverse dorm on campus and home to the Cultural Houses.
East Campus dorms tend to have more freedom than West Campus dorms. In some dorms, students can paint their walls and decorate their rooms. East Campus students have even been known to build roller coasters and other contraptions in the middle of the yard. Apart from the amount of freedom that is available to one who lives in East Campus, it’s also more convenient.