Friday Service Time: A Lie

This isn’t just another article about Friday Service. This is more than just an attempt to get people involved. This is an article about change and experiments. This is an article about fixing things.

I’ve spent the last two years on the SERV board, first as a Friday Service coordinator and then as the Chair, and in these two years we’ve tried various different ways to bring the service culture back to Olin. The problem is that the community is no longer engaging in service activities, even when SERV offers them.

When we give tours to outside guests and prospective students, we stop at the top of the wooden waterfall and we talk about what makes Olin unique, and without fail we mention the importance of service to the college and the community. We talk about how we have a dedicated time on Friday afternoons where no one has classes so that everyone can focus on community service.

Well, guess what? We’re lying.

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Building the Olin Memory

The student body at Olin College has the institutional memory of a goldfish. For a college of just over 10 years old, we have forgotten a remarkable amount. Each graduating senior takes their knowledge and experience, and leaves behind a person-shaped hole in Olin’s collective memory. Club leaders take with them memories of successful past events. Project managers abscond with a litany of common pitfalls, and how to avoid them. Champions of a cause leave nothing but archeological evidence of their efforts, to be pieced together by their inheritors in years to come.

We lose track of club materials from year to year. Every successive student government struggles to interpret the last year’s constitution. Successive generations of Oliners have reinvented the proverbial wheel time and time again. If you’re curious, delve into some of the older folders on public (there’s one benefit to not cleaning out old files) or ask an alum about some of the things they used to do. The challenges we overcome and the successes we achieve are often celebrated and promptly forgotten.

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Repairing Disillusionment

Since committing here last May, my home friends have endured my ceaseless gushing over Olin. I get my own bathroom. The cafeteria has this delicious Indian food all the time. I can major in Materials Science. There are no grades, nor unhealthy competition. Did I mention how all 340 students are besties, have complementary personalities to mine, and yet the community is super diverse? The curriculum teaches every engineering innovation imaginable. Group projects are a breeze, since everyone is extremely motivated. The campus is super safe; there has never been a sexual assault. And when it’s all over, we decide among options such as Microsoft, Google, and a Stanford PhD program, because the world values Olin graduates above all others.

Doesn’t that sound so nice?

No, the purpose of this article is not to brag about our school – it’s mostly about disillusionment. Though I often toe the line between optimism and gross exaggeration, I truly believed all of those things about Olin. I’m now forced to face reality.

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Racial Challenges of Olin

Dear Olin community,

I’m writing you to express my concern with the way Olin’s culture addresses race. In the two years since graduating in the class of 2012, I’ve been living and working in New York City. I have also spent a lot of time reflecting on my college experience, including the role that race played on the Olin campus. To avoid being verbose, I’ve summarized my concerns in the following three key points.

1. As a Chinese-American student, I felt like I had to tone down my “Asianness” in order to fit in and be successful at Olin. Since its inception, Olin’s student body, administration, staff and faculty have always been predominantly white. Although I never experienced any overt racism against me on campus, I believe that Olin’s “white” culture made it difficult for me to fully embrace and express my lived experience as an Asian-American student. Olin’s curriculum emphasizes empathy for others, but for whatever reason, I found that many Oliners seemed to completely overlook the fact that I was Asian. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City that I began to truly understand and embrace my identity.

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Improving Our Workspaces

In a recent article published by Business Insider, Olin College was ranked 6th for “Best College Campus in the United States.” Notably, the article mentions how easy it is to get around and how great the residence halls are. However, in classic Olin spirit, there is always room for iteration and improvement. Professor Aaron Hoover is hosting a co-curricular (in which I’m participating) this semester called “Designing Workspaces for Creative Collaboration.” In this co-curricular, students identify under-utilized spaces or areas that can be improved and propose a plan to use them more effectively. The purpose of this article is to inform the student body about this co-curricular’s vision, activities, and how we hope to improve various spaces around Olin including the hallway outside the machine shop, the POE room, and the Mechanical Stockroom.

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Honor Board MadLibs

Cases before the Honor Board are wide and varied. Topics range from personal differences and academic dishonesty to misuse of public materials. Above all, the Honor Board is a means for Olin Community members to work out their differences safely and confidentially. Find a friend and fill out the MadLibs in the paragraphs below to learn about a past case.

______ (name 1), a student, was reported to the Honor Board for operating a/n ______ (adjective) Wireless Access Point (WAP) that interfered with the campus-wide wireless network and was ______ (adjective) by the campus Information Technology (IT) staff. The report was filed by ______ (name 2), a student, who had been ______ (verb ending in –ed) by the WAP. The Investigative Team determined that enough evidence was present to warrant a ______ (noun) before the Honor Board.

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Make Change! Build Olin!

Olin, this article is your call to action. This article is your mandate to do something. To make a difference. To have an impact! It’s up to you to take personal responsibility to better your environment, and I invite you to start right away. Tomorrow is Build Day, when Faculty, Students, Staff, and Alumni are invited to celebrate the Olin Community together. It will be a great chance for you to put your change-making abilities to the test!

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Franzly Speaking, Issue 1

This is a brand new publication in which we discuss real issues, with one real person, to get you real answers.

FRANZLY SPEAKING: What are your plans for the future?


FS: Blue LEDs?

F.S.: Yeah, blue LEDs. I’m serious. If you want to make anything look futuristic spacey, all you have to do is add blue LEDs onto it. Blue LEDs are the future.

FS: Huh, okay. What would you say is your greatest weakness?

F.S.: Hmm, I might have to think about that one… At the moment, being unable to deal well with changes to the plan that I had.

FS: Cryptic. What are your opinions on Mafia?

F.S.: I think it’s interesting, but I don’t play it. I enjoy watching it, it’s amusing. But I don’t play it.

Tune in next issue, where we tackle even more of the important issues!

Review: Forrest Newsletter

Early this month, I was in the dining hall and I was both surprised and pleased to find a publication called the “Forrest Newsletter” on my dining table. After poring through the well-written and informative newsletter, I was happy to know Olin students have access to publications such as these. Without high-quality, high-impact journalism such as that found in the Forrest Newsletter, I fear Olin will succumb to inferior sources of Forrest-related news and information. I’m glad the hard-hitting and informative articles found in the newsletter are available to the Olin community on a monthly basis. In fact, I wouldn’t say it is a stretch to compare the publishers of the Newsletter to Johannes Gutenberg, at least in terms of revolutionizing the dissemination of important information.

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