To the Class of 2020

A Letter from Yiran He '20 to you

Dear Class of 2020,

Commencement is not happening the way we all expected, which makes us sad but also makes the class of 1970 sad – they were supposed to come back for their 50th reunion, and that’s not happening either. Their commencement was also unusual, as it was affected by the Kent State shootings and nation-wide protests. We want to explore how we’ve felt the sudden termination of normalcy, and generally what we notice. We’re interested in details, in people’s stories, we’re interested in your experiences.

Things are weird. Things are REALLY weird, actually. I’m in STS.050, History of MIT, and we want to document how weird everything is.

Prof. Douglas usually asks her students to hand-write letters about their experiences to future students of the class. The 2014 students wrote about the Marathon bombings; 2016 students wrote about tent parties. We’ve designed this website where you can drop scans or photos of handwritten thoughts, or typed versions. There are a couple suggested guiding questions to look at below, but we’d just really like to take a snapshot of sorts of What the Hell is Going On.

  • How did you spend that last insane week?
  • How are you organizing your life now? How do you deal with both the changes, and the way things are going now?
  • What is important about physical presence? What or who do you miss/need about or from an actual campus?
  • What is/was on your mind? What are the stories of your experiences that you want others to remember going forward?

We’re asking the class of 1970 similar questions and we hope this becomes a kind of long-ranging conversation across the generations, and maybe into the future.

I’m really excited to see where we take this. We’ve floated ideas about maybe compiling thoughts into a book, gifted to both the classes of 2020 and 1970, to commemorate this year – any other thoughts are extremely welcome. I think documenting the unusualness of the year, with personal things like handwriting and photos, will make it something to look back on for years, and maybe we can find some common ground across the various crises MIT has faced.

Yiran He ’20, on behalf of STS.050