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Individuals must assert freedoms

For a student who has seen a number of controversial issues arise on this campus, the divestment issue stands out as one that has provoked very little intelligent action on the part of MIT administrators. Other issues, like pass/fail, IAP, freshman housing, ARA, ROTC, HASS reforms, and the proposed calendar changes saw varying degrees of faculty-student and administration-student cooperation and respect. The arrest of students last Friday leaves me wondering what to expect next from administrators who cannot seem to handle confrontation.

When students are assaulted by Campus Police as in the Faculty Club protest, or arrested -- after a 20-minute ultimatum -- for peacefully and non-violently protesting, something is lacking in the type of mutual respect necessary for a productive student-administration relationship.

There is always a rationale -- "they built an `illegal structure' " -- to justify the crackdowns on what I could term the "radical element" on campus. But when does the "radical element" become the general student body? Protests in the 1970s saw Cambridge Police storming the Student Center, lobbing tear gas canisters at McCormick and chasing the MIT president off Kresge Oval. Only through careful planning and silent protest were students allowed to sit in the faculty meetings where pass/fail was decided.

Sometimes we who consider ourselves moderates become complacent and even justify such actions -- the students were too radical, too confrontational; they should have worked within the system. But such rationalizations leave us more conservative and less able to effect change after every round of confrontation.

Student leaders, faculty, and administration should take a strong stand against the recent arrest of demonstrators on the grounds of our Student Center. The Undergraduate Association and the faculty could pass resolutions, but such resolutions would be inherently weak as they would have to appeal to everyone and not be "too radical" to pass. It is up to individuals on the faculty committees, within student government, within student activities and at every level of administration to assert that students, and in fact all members of the MIT community, deserve the right to express their views in a peaceful, non-violent way. This should be a campus governed by the free and mutually considerate exchange of ideas, not by the fear of arrest.


Dave Atkins '90, a double major in political science and management, is a columnist for The Tech.