Trapped inside the Olin Bubble, and only superficially aware of how other schools actually operate, it's been hard for me to judge what we've actually accomplished in terms of fine-tuning the college process. And I'm not talking about our curriculum, which outsiders comment on fairly regularly-- in light of studying economics, living the social life of a metropolis, and exploring the culture of Europe, I feel that I've gained new perspective on the little things that make Olin flow.
Take R2s. At Olin, we have a trained (and compensated) group of students who are available to lead the transition into college, be available for you, and help you get that door unlocked at 1 am. Even though six full-time adult staff members live in my 500 person dorm complex here at UCL, I've been advised to not disturb them after 11pm unless it's an extreme emergency. IE, if you're locked out of your room, sleep in the hall. I have much renewed value for my Olin R2s after living in this dorm at UCL. They are students that I trust, feel comfortable approaching, and lastly are often awake at the odd hours Oliners are awake.
Facilities at Olin are nice; they're still new. But you don't miss your staffed mailbox until you dig through a 3 month pile of mail of everyone whose last name starts with D. Or you don't realise how much Olin's 1 laundry machine for every 25 people sure beats 1 for every 100. Or having wireless internet, though often flaky, not only in academic rooms, but in your own bedroom, and with no limit to how many computers you may connect to the network. Or the safety of sprinklers, which are conspicuously absent in my 4 year old dorm building at UCL. Fire alarms however, are not absent, as I've rudely found out many times during the night.
Each of these examples is an investment in student living. Certainly, there's no real need for most of them. We have adults living in each dorm already, we have wired connections in our rooms, and wouldn't 3 laundry machines really be enough? As Oliner's get older, we often get jaded, and take for granted what we have, and defensive of what we need to let go. UCL is an incredible place, but has chosen to distribute its resources differently. Their choices have taught me a new perspective on Olin.
*And while I've illuminated many things at Olin that are good, there are many things UCL does better, for one reason or another. That's another blog post though.