Students mock, express concern about administration edits to REX event booklet

Edits include using the term ‘first-years’ instead of ‘prefrosh’

Starting this Residence Exploration, all instances of “prefrosh” in the REX booklet must be changed to “first-years,” according to DormCon REX Chairs Ariana Jacobsen ’20 and Tuyet Pham ’21 in an email to The Tech.

The purpose of the change is to recognize that “members of the Class of 2022 are now part of the MIT community,” Associate Dean of Residential Education Julie Rothhaar-Sanders wrote in an email to The Tech.

Rothhaar-Sanders worked with Jacobsen and Pham to edit event descriptions. The booklet will be distributed to first-years at the beginning of Orientation Week.

The use of “first-years” instead of “pre-frosh” affected only three event descriptions. The majority of the 77 administrative recommendations were to provide clearer explanations or to improve an event’s safety plans, according to Jacobsen and Pham’s email.

In addition, in compliance with the policies of the Mind and Hand Book, REX event descriptions are not allowed to contain drug or alcohol references or sexual language outside of an educational context, as incoming students may not feel comfortable with these topics, according to Rothhaar-Sanders and an email to The Tech from Random Hall REX Chair Sonia Reilly ’20.

Some students disagreed with the administrative enforcement of these policies. Reilly noted the removal of a water pong event and the flagging of a potato-themed event run by an Irish student as an example of stereotyping.

Reilly was most concerned that the removal of certain events would make it “harder for [incoming students] to choose places that fit their personality or interests.” For example, a sex-positive, gender-open floor with a large proportion of LGBTQ residents had several events flagged, including one that involved reading romance novels out loud. She argued that banning these events would “impede the floor from showcasing its culture.”

Reilly wrote that she has told Jacobsen and Pham that she does not intend to change any of Random Hall’s REX event descriptions. Jacobsen and Pham believe that the edit process was “fair,” as REX chairs are able to override the majority of recommendations. As of the writing of this article, the editing process is ongoing.

Simmons Hall Frosh Chair Carlos Sendao ’20 disagreed with using the term “first-years” instead of “pre-frosh.” “Prefrosh isn't a discriminatory/derogative [sic] term, but just an accurate name for students who have yet to have their own Convocation ceremony,” Senado wrote in an email to The Tech. Sendao believed that calling these students “prefrosh” heightens the significance of Convocation and is important to preserve as a part of MIT’s culture.

Simmons Hall Frosh Chair Amber Bick ’21 noted in an email to The Tech that she was not attached to the term itself but expressed concern that this was indicative of administration increasingly exercising tighter control over students’ culture.

According to Jacobsen and Pham, Sendao was the only REX Chair to complain to them about the name change. Rothhaar-Sanders concurred that students working on the REX events booklet have been overall supportive regarding the change.

Administration’s decision to use “first-years” to describe the incoming students has led to confusion as to whether administration is concerned about merely the word “prefrosh” or also the words “freshman” and “frosh.”  

Maya Kaul ’19 ran a poll on the ec-discuss mailing list asking what “freshmen” and “prefrosh” should be called. Most students responded that they preferred retaining the existing nomenclature. Comments included, “How is prefrosh negative?” and, “This is what admin is focused on?” Several students also hypothesized that the decision was made because of the gendered ending of “freshmen.”

Other students have taken to mocking the decision. On the MIT Summer Confessions Facebook page, one student posted, “froshlings is a slur.”

After seeing this post, Katya Bezugla ’22 ran a poll on the Class of 2022 Facebook page asking their peers what they believe freshmen should be called, Bezugla explained in an email to The Tech. The winner was “Unsuspecting victims,” with 66 votes, and second was “Frosh,” with 25 votes.

They summed up their class’s sentiment by saying, “Most of us don't really know what's going on or why it is, but find it all pretty funny.”