The Merciless Speed of Institutional Change

I’ve seen the construction of Building W64. I’ve seen Building 12 torn down, and a new building probably also numbered 12 gradually form in its place. I’ve seen Buildings 2, 4, 6, 9, 24, 26, 31, 35, 36, 37, 66, E19, E25, E52, E62, W15, and W31 undergo significant renovations. I’ve seen E17 and E18 undergo significant renovations twice. I’ve seen the renovation of the G8 floor of Building 32, and the dedication of the Charles Vest Student Street in its lobby. I’ve seen the modernization of the roofdeck of Random Hall (NW61). I’ve seen that roofdeck catch on fire and get restored. I’ve seen NW62, NW95, and NE80 lose their status as MIT numbered buildings. I’ve seen E94, EE19, EE20, N50, NW23, NW32, NW98, W36, W41, W55, W56, W57, W97, and WW25 gain status as MIT numbered buildings. I’ve seen the demolition of Buildings E33 and E34, and the plans for the future demolition of Buildings E38, E39, and E55, to completely change the structure of the area, the last of those being a graduate apartment and one of the tallest buildings at MIT. I’ve seen the beginning of construction for Building W83. I’m sure there’s many changes I didn’t even notice; I have only vague memories of a Building E28 north of E25.

I’ve seen the closure of Bexley Hall (W13), and its demolition, and with it, its line of unique i3 videos. I’ve seen the closure of Senior House (E2). I’ve seen the impending closure of New House (W70). With each of these, the home of an entire MIT community vanishes.

I’ve seen the Housemaster of East Campus change. I’ve seen the Head of House of Random Hall change. Between these two, I’ve seen the position of Housemaster be renamed the Head of House. I’ve seen every GRT position at Random Hall swap out at least once, and only one of them just once.

I’ve seen the Dean of Engineering change. I’ve seen the Dean of Science change. I’ve seen the Dean for Student Life change (to much fanfare and rejoicing). I’ve seen the Dean for Residential Life and Dining change. I’ve seen the Dean for Undergraduate Education change, in fact to my 6.01 instructor freshman year.

I’ve experienced no longer filling out Add/Drop forms on paper and doing them online instead.

I’ve seen the development of 6.02 alternatives 6.03 and 6.S04, and of 6.034 alternative 6.036. I’ve seen the formation of 6.008 and 6.009 (out of 6.S04). I’ve seen 6.00 split into 6.0001 and 6.0002, and then optionally re-coalesce. I’ve seen the fission of 6.005 into 6.031 and portions into 6.009, and the bifurcation of 6.041 into 6.041A and 6.041B. I’ve seen the overhaul of the 6.UAT/P requirement, as well as 6.UAT becoming recognized to fulfill a Course 3 requirement. After Course 6 brought about the ten-thousandth digit in course numbers, I saw Course 18 adopt them systematically, in the process causing multiple classes I’ve taken here to come by different numbers before I leave: 18.404 becoming 18.4041 and 18.443 becoming 18.6501. I also saw Course 18 massively refactor the 18.100 versions. I’ve seen part of 18.03 become the independent class 18.031. Who knows what I’ve missed changing in the courses I don’t pay heavy attention to, but even on the courses level, I saw Course 21F get renumbered Course 21G, the coming of IDS, and the merger of CMS and 21W.

I’ve seen APSP graph algorithms get moved from the 6.046 curriculum to the 6.006 curriculum. From TAing 6.006 in two consecutive semesters, I’ve realized how shockingly quickly the structure of the class changes unrecognizably when the instructors of the class change, and reflected on how often an instructor says “this is how it is done” and for that convention to be immediately discarded when a different instructor guides the class.

I’ve been here for the death of Sean Collier in the fallout of the Boston Marathon bombing, and seen the process of the construction of a memorial for him between Buildings 32 and 76. I was here when Aaron Swartz died, and during the associated and upcoming DDoS attack on MIT’s network, and massive changes in security procedure resultant. I’ve been here during the suicides of numerous MIT students, and of one professor, Seth Teller.

I’ve seen the most active user on zephyr quit zephyr, and later rejoin zephyr. I’ve seen someone I’ve known very speedily become the second most active user on zephyr, and shortly after quit zephyr vowing to never return.

I’ve seen discussion.mit.edu come. I’ve seen discussion.mit.edu flourish. I’ve seen discussion.mit.edu die. I’ve seen discussion.mit.edu continue to attempt to come back to life.

I’ve seen the removal of addresses from the People Directory. I’ve seen the shutdown of amap.mit.edu.

I’ve seen IS&T undergo a massive reorganization, in which it lost 800 years of employee experience. I’ve seen the wide-reaching consequences of its changes in its plans. I’ve seen, among this, MIT no longer exclusively owning the 18-block of IP address space.

I’ve filled out numerous forms that had vestiges of conventions that have since changed.

There’s a sensation MIT has managed to bring to me, as a person that ceaselessly shakes fists at tradition, that I actually wish things didn’t change as fast, a thought I might have never expected myself to ever have before coming to MIT.

Looking around here at MIT, I often feel that there is nothing that is safe from changing, that in my really short time here, I have already seen every aspect of this university change dramatically. It’s really quite a shock. I don’t know what aspects of this place that I consider my biggest connections to MIT will just have completed changed or utterly vanished on the next blink of my eye. I’m left looking for some sort of solid handle, something that I feel I could be reasonably sure stays solid and could last awhile, and I really can’t find anything much. Maybe I should just accept this as the flows of the rapids of this radiating source of engineering, but maybe, somehow, despite my love of change, this manages to be too much for me.

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