Olin Goes to the Picture Show

Olin Goes to the Picture Show
Last semester, Olin students went to a private showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Something along the lines of 300 students managed to venture forth from the bubble (admittedly only to recreate it somewhere else) and arrive not only on time, but early, to the movie theater. We probably haven’t given as much credit to the brave souls who organized this, so here is a little bit more. This was an undoubtedly awesome experience, and a unique one not just for my time at Olin, but for my entire movie-watching career. Take a few more seconds to remember it before I mar it by way of explanation.
I think that a glimpse at what audiovisual entertainment may have looked like in the past could prove useful. Consider the post-war years of cinema. Movie theaters were no longer confined to populous cities. For multiple reasons, they had managed to spread to rural areas in many parts of the modern world. War-time leaders had recognized the value of propaganda and news-reels for maintaining morale and the war effort, and recognized building cinemas as important public-works projects. Going to the movies had become a common pastime for a much larger portion of the population, across multiple demographics. Even young folks of different sexes could mingle without any chaperoning, something that would have been scandalous anywhere else. “Playhouses for the masses” and “Democracy’s theater” were just some of the fanciful terms for movie theaters at the time. It offered a truly unique location for a community to come together and ensured that cinema was a social experience. It was still a form of entertainment but one rooted in more than just the sensory. Even if there was a bit of nationalism, it was still ultimately rooted in a sense of community.
Now this is undoubtedly a glorified notion. The mere fact that Hollywood loves creating films about the power of films makes me think we might be getting a good dose of movie magic (The Disaster Artist is the latest example, though it’s got nothing on Cinema Paradiso). It is undoubtedly a mythology that the studios and theatres themselves are interested in promoting. But keep this narrative in mind as we juxtapose it with our usual viewing experiences in the late teens of the twenty-first century.
I watched Star Wars again a good six days after Olin did, back home in Los Angeles. The screen was a bit bigger (IMAX), the seats slightly more comfortable (tempurpedic, with armrests). But, unbelievably, when Yoda got on stage and told me that “the greatest teacher, failure is,” I think one person in the theater may have chuckled. Now I’m sure that my memory exaggerates, but six days before at the time of this monologue, I am confident that the whole movie theater burst into laughter, for at least two minutes. Hearing the words of so many of our professors spoken from the mouth of a little green puppet who can call lightning from the afterlife was equally parts unnerving, hilarious, and touching. It was even on one of the Candidates’ t-shirt options.
I don’t think that the unique part of this Olin-at-the-cinema experience was subconsciously analyzing every moment of the film for its insights into the Olin experience. I could try to convince you that when you saw BB-8 extend more and more appendages to, uh, plug fuses, it represented the way you try to divide your time over more and more activities. And that Rey is feeling imposter syndrome because she is neither a Skywalker nor Obi-Wan’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate. That moment of identification in the film, and nearly uniform laughter that followed, was merely the effect of something more subtle.
It started with the pre-movie buzz. People mingled around, interacting in different ways. They searched for their friends, bumped into others. They were excited for the film, and they were excited for each other. Then the film began, and I realized just how much I was being affected by the people around me. Maybe you were stirred by the smiles and cheers of your fellow Oliners; I’m certain I saw your enthusiasm mirror and augment theirs, too. As a hulking spaceship was torn apart by the light of a sacrificial jump to lightspeed, perhaps the silence and sharp breaths of your peers became a fundamental part of your experience. Waves of feedback riding along the connection between people.
Another interlude. Why don’t we consider the average internet-age audio-visual entertainment experience for a moment. Let’s start by assuming you don’t go to the movie theatre. Today there are countless shows and films that you can watch at a moment’s notice, whether you pay for them or not. The possibilities are endless, though more often than not it can feel like an undeniable overload. At the same time, every streaming service wants to provide you with the most personalized experience they can, recommendation after recommendation being served to you by Big Data itself, so that you can have the content that you want. It’s an individualistic view of entertainment.
But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Just do the math: Netflix claims that it’s subscribers view an average of 125,000,000 hours of content every day. It’s currently estimated that there are 35,000 hours of content uploaded to the streaming service. By the Pigeon-Hole Principle (shout-out to Sarah Spence Adams and Discrete), at least 3,572 people watched the same show or movie on any given day. And by similar reasoning, a minimum of 3 people began watching the same content within one minute of each other.
Are you feeling a sense of community yet?
Now let’s assume you did make it out to a movie theater. Bump 3 people up to 50, or even 500 people watching with you at the same moment in time. Sitting in a crowded theater makes you intimately aware of the concurrent viewers who may or may not be ruining your experience. I think I would be hard-pressed to find many people for whom that awareness easily and always translated into any sort of connection with the rest of the anonymous audience. Simply viewing the same film isn’t enough. You don’t respond to their reactions the way I think we responded to each other in that movie theater. For the most part, we have divorced TV and films from any sort of social experience, and most definitely from a community experience.
I have perhaps drawn in too much detail the differences between our showing of The Last Jedi, and the rest of our movie-going careers. You get it. Olin is a community. Olin saw a film. It was dope. The reason I can’t leave it at that is because what I felt reminded me of something else. Something which might give insight into the real difference between the experiences you’ve just read about (and maybe experienced? Damn, do I hope this is hitting any sort of chord). I’ll tell you about it in two more paragraphs.
The more a film is capable of absorbing you in it’s myriad details, textures and plots, the more we tend to praise it. We are usually eager to be drawn in to what we see, and loosen our connection to reality. To experience the lives of other people, and worlds far removed from ours (that secretly are our own). That’s why we purchase larger TV’s, and 22.2 surround sound systems. The fundamental art of film is the art of manipulation, and we are the willing subjects.
But this unconditional immersion is not the only way to watch films. When I watch films extremely analytically, I experience them differently. Sometimes I do it for fun, and sometimes there are films which demand viewing in this way. I need to both delve into the composition of any individual scene and shot, and still be conscious of all those which have come before. It requires a constant tension, a balancing act of distance from the film. That feeling is precisely what was familiar, sitting among Oliners. My familiarity and connection with the people in the movie theater was an anchor against the pull of that visual tide. The solo critical viewing is an active and sometimes difficult one, while this was an effortless tension, floating between the flashing lightsabers and the thoughts and reactions of those around me.
All I’m really trying to say is that I was very grateful to add community-movie-theater viewing to my list of cinematic experiences. Am I being a touch romantic? I tend to be, when I think, talk, or write about film. Did you feel something different that evening? At the close of the The Last Jedi’s second act, Kylo Ren extends his hand to Rey over the carnage of their fight for freedom. Maybe you immediately thought of Olin’s mission when you saw Rey torn between throwing out the past, or building off and learning from it instead. Maybe you felt a resonance with your peers at the struggle we all face in building our futures. Ah! You were entranced when you saw that these two characters, with such different experiences, had the same pain in both of their eyes. I’ll never know for sure, but there’s a chance you thought there was something unique about that 4:30pm showing on the 15th of December.

Build Your Global Resume

In January, 13 students left Olin’s campus behind to explore academic opportunities in other countries; specifically Argentina, Hungary, Singapore, Germany, South Korea, Spain, Ireland, England and Scotland. Concurrently, Olin welcomed exchange students from China, Belgium, and Singapore.

Olin has worked hard to build strong partnerships with foreign institutions in places like South Korea, Germany, France, Belgium and Singapore. We’ve tried to make it easier for you to find a program that is a good fit given your academic goals and/or preferred destination. For specific guidance about how to plan your study away, visit our webpage http://www.olin.edu/students/study-away/ and let us know your initial thoughts about where and when. We can walk you through the application process whether you want to fulfill your AHS concentration while abroad or take classes in engineering and sustainability.

Some study away providers and programs that we recommend checking out include:

API Abroad Many Olin students have travelled all over the world on API programs from Argentina and the UK, to Italy, France and Spain. They offers programs in over two dozen locations throughout the world: in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand to name a few. If language acquisition is one of your goals for study away, API offers high quality language and culture programs for all levels of language learners in Spanish and French. Take a look at their website at www.apistudyabroad.com.
IES Abroad boasts over 65 years of experience in short and long term study abroad and has 34 locations around the world. From Multiculturalism and Immigration in the Mediterranean to Paris Business and International Affairs, IES courses are taught by well-credentialed professors at prestigious institutions. Check out their blog at iesabroad.org/blogs to see what students are saying about their programs and experiences.

DIS From Global Economics and International Relations to Sustainability and Architecture & Design, DIS offers a wide variety of courses that are taught by academic, military and political experts. The programs are in two locations (Stockholm and Copenhagen) and offer many different housing options that provide students with meaningful cultural engagement. Go to disabroad.org for more information.

IFSA Butler offers future-focused study abroad programs that include world-class academics and community-based learning for students who want to make a difference in the world and enhance their intercultural skills. They offer more than 100 programs in 53 cities in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Check out ifsa-butler.com.

AIT in Hungary began, like Olin, with the goal of shaking up undergraduate electrical and computer engineering education. Hungary takes great pride in its rich tradition of excellence in mathematics and computing. AIT is specifically designed for computer science and software engineering students. Courses are taught in English in by well-known scholars, designers and entrepreneurs that emphasize innovation, interactivity and creativity. Centrally located in the heart of Europe, Budapest provides easy access to other countries if travel is a priority for you. Check out the program at ait-budapest.com.

Global E3 Because of the demand for engineering graduates with international perspectives, a group of leading universities around the world established Global E3 over 20 years ago. Olin is part of this highly-selective consortium of engineering programs. If you want to study engineering on your study away, then start your search with the Global E3 network. You can search for a member institution in one of the 23 countries listed on their at globale3.studioabroad.com

Whether you are looking to study abroad to broaden your view of the world, be immersed in a new and unfamiliar culture, or to build your resume and/or portfolio to be a grand-challenge scholar, come see us in the Student Affairs office. We can help.

SERV Activity Update

NEW FROM SERV: Community Service @ Lunch! Starting next Friday, SERV Lunches in the dining hall will now include a drop-in community service activity. We’ll be doing a new project each week – stop by, drop in, and help out for as long as you’d like. Our first project will be to make sock puppets for kids at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.

Service Opportunities: (Contact anyone on SERV if you’d be interested in learning more!)
Mentor Needed: Technovation Challenge for Needham 8th Grade Girls, Pollard Middle School
Mentor Needed: RoboNatick – Natick High School Robotics Club
Volunteer Teachers needed: Memorial Elementary After School Activities Program (ASAP) in Natick
Mentor Needed: Westwood High School Robotics team

Want to Start a Service Project? Welcome back to a new semester! This is the column where SERV usually puts all the ongoing service activities, however, we realized many of our current project leaders are taking semesters abroad, or working on senior capstone projects, etc. But don’t let that fool you! Service Projects can be done by anyone, any time. Here are the top seven reasons why you might want to start your own service project (number 2 will surprise you!)
7. Learn more about the community, city, and world around you. It’s no surprise that getting off Olin’s campus can be a challenge. Use your Service Project as a way to get outside the bubble and explore.
6. Practice your skills and Learn new things. Many service projects will make use of the skills. Whether it’s building bikes with Bikes Not Bombs, planting gardens with The Food Project, tutoring students in Needham, volunteer-teaching at an arts studio, or many others, you can use Service to augment your Olin education experience.
5. Have fun with your friends! Community service work isn’t always easy, but working on a team with people who support and care about you makes it much better. Plus, community service is a great excuse to hang out on a Saturday afternoon or a Wednesday evening.
4. Flexible options. Some organizations are looking for a multi-hour, semester-long commitment; other organizations can accept volunteers for one-off activities. SERV will support and fund Service Pursuits for projects you might do on your own, Chartered Projects for teams of students, and one-time events. Look at the SERV brochure on the Civic Engagement board outside the dining hall for reimbursement details.
3. Create meaningful and authentic connections with others. When doing community service, you tend to meet a lot of people. Some of those people might turn out to be great mentors, friends, or partners in your future endeavors.
2. SERV can help with transportation and logistics! SERV’s job is to make it as easy as possible for Oliners to do community service. That means we’re available to help with logistics, like coordinating meeting times or covering transportation costs. This semester we’re hoping to help Service Project leaders get Olin Van trained – stay tuned for updates.
1. Make life better. Each of us has the capacity to create an impact on the world around us. Even through the tiny actions of our day-to-day life, we can create a little bit of joy, relieve a little bit of suffering, or spark a little bit of curiosity. I would argue that together, these little legacies might equal all the Big Things we will do in our lives. Doing community service is a good way to keep that in perspective; and take it from a Jaded Senior™, keeping a good perspective is essential.

Interested? We hope you’ll consider reaching out to Grace, Michael, or Ashlee, who would be more than happy to help you set up your Service Project. Or, you can stop by the SERV table at lunch for fun activities and good conversation!

Crossword Puzzle

1 Ranking
4 Type of salad
7 Not near
9 Dad
10 Typical
12 Greek story
15 Newspaper person (Abbr)
16 SolidWorks, OnShape, Fusion 360
17 365 days in 2018 Chinese culture
22 Fake smarts
24 What male dogs hear often
28 Very long fish
29 Facial feature
30 Operate
31 Agreement
32 Far ____
36 Leave
37 Spanish river
39 Plural facial feature
41 Not the favorite
44 Airport information
45 In quick time
46 Noisy hit
47 PC system


1 Great weather
2 Kitchen clock
3 Spanish seasoning
5 Required essay format
6 Pile of cash
8 Asian side dish
11 Much ___ about nothing
13 Soup server
14 Wedding response
18 Grouchy
19 Wonderful
20 “I’m talking to you!”
21 Woman, slangily
23 A belief
25 Greek complex
26 Person who’s a bummer
27 Not off
29 US bird
33 Songbird
34 Breathable gas compound
35 Green guy who puts subjects last
38 Astonished
40 Belongs to a thing
42 Silent yes
43___ wop













Response to Gender Bias

Emily Roper-Doten, our dean of admission, stated that Olin admission is not gender biased . In good faith, I tried to parse her argument, and the best I came up with is: “It’s not easier for women. Full stop.” This is not an argument.

I assert that Olin is biased in its admission. There is a larger male applicant pool and lower acceptance rate of men. Emily also states, “Olin has a commitment to equal membership in the class of students who identify as male and female by legal sex”. To conclude non-bias, there would have to be another piece of illuminating evidence to support non-bias. Emily never provides such evidence. If Olin were to publish success metrics grouped by gender, such as SAT, essay scores, or Olin GPA, we can judge the claim for ourselves.

In trying to construct an argument in absence of evidence, I came up with two theories. Both are made *instantly unambiguous* with a few aggregated numbers. First, it is possible that female applicants submit higher quality applications overall. Emily states: “We must be careful not to assume that the size of an applicant pool, or a subset of an applicant pool, is an indicator of application quality or admissibility.” This hints that female applications are better, but it is not directly stated. If female applications were better, though, it would fly in the face of the overall argument that any population subset is inherently equal to all others. Another theory is random sampling. Since every candidate has cleared a consistent standard, it is possible that a subset of applications are chosen that are above the bar. For example, 80 out of 80 females could be invited to candidates weekend and 80 random males out of the 120 that passed the bar are invited.

When discussing this bias, our strategy should be to lay out the reasons for forced diversity. We should reaffirm that everyone has a high bar (different as it may be). We can also note that population level differences are not wide enough or specific enough to make individual judgements. The reasons for diversity are good; we should stand behind them. One of Olin’s founding precepts is equal gender representation and the Olin experiment has had success. Also, clearly different perspectives and experiences aid creativity.

Emily brought up an important question: How should female students reply to questions of worthiness? How about this: “My past accomplishments are what got me here, same as you. Let’s add two more flyback diodes.”

I understand this can be a sensitive topic. And I believe women are strong enough to handle the truth.