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School's hyper-sensitivity reaches new heights

From what I can gather, this year at MIT is shaping up to be one of hyper-sensitivity. We are diverse; we are open-minded; and we are hyper-sensitive. It doesn't take a lot to see what I mean. Just look at a few articles from recent issues of The Tech.

Take, for example, the painting-over-of-the-Smoots incident a week ago Saturday. For those of you who've had your head up an orifice for the past 33 years, the Smoots were a fraternity prank, a joke. In 1958, Lambda Chi Alpha took a pledge and measured the Hahvahd Bridge in terms of his height, by laying him out across the bridge.

It was a funny prank. Whenever a friend is visiting Cambridge, the odds are that I'll tell him or her the Smoots story. We'll walk across the bridge, and I'll point out the markings, and my friend will laugh. It's amusing.

On the front page of the Oct. 30 Tech, we find a story with a huge photo marked, "SAE makes its own Smoots." Apparently some unauthorized members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon painted their own markings over the Smoots. The article discusses the serious nature of the offense in sobering terms. "This is a little more serious," says LCA President Brian S. Teeple '91, "than the pledge raids that usually go on." Cue the violins, please.

IT WAS A PRANK! It was a joke! I don't think the brothers who began the Smoots sat around thinking about the long-term implications of the prank they were pulling. I think they were probably blasted on a few cases of Schlitz or some other premium 1958 beer, and they thought it would be goofy to lay this poor guy Oliver Smoot across the bridge. It wasn't a great event in MIT history, full of long-term implications and haughty tradition. It was a bunch of drunk guys rolling another guy around. Not exactly something to write home about.

So the sobriety with which the issue is being treated (Smoots "are part of MIT tradition, not just a fraternity prank," says Teeple) is a little unnatural. They are just a fraternity prank. They're a good fraternity prank, and a funny one, but that is what they are. Now look, I don't want the brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha to write letters to the editor accusing me of insensitivity to their tradition, because I understand that re-marking the Smoots is part of being an LCA pledge.

So go clean up the bridge, and have SAE help you do it. However, it's not like anyone urinated on the picture of Julius Stratton in the Student Center (which would be a neat trick). At worst, SAE's actions could be considered a trifle unoriginal. In the words of SAE's president, "The pledges will be getting together to clean up the bridge . . . to show interfraternity unity." If we took the Middle East crisis with this much sobriety, Saddam Hussein would be eating dinner at the White House tomorrow and teaching Dan Quayle the difference between a salad fork and a soup spoon.

Hyper-sensitivity. We have to deeply respect tradition. We have to be completely sensitive. You want another example? Try the Sabor Latino party poster, which apparently contained a picture of a scantily clad woman and a completely dressed man. The man's hand was on the woman's thigh. Letters flowed into The Tech, blasting the blatant sexism of the poster portraying Hispanic women as sex objects.

Time out. The last I checked on the hyper-sensitivity scale, a woman can dress as provocatively as she wants to, and it is wrong for men (or other women) to assume anything about that woman's sexual conduct based on what she is wearing. Shouldn't it be the man, with his hand on her thigh, who is wrong? He is assuming she is easy just because of her dress.

Wait, now I'm insulted. Is this poster saying that all men assume a woman is easy if she is dressed scantily? Personally, I most certainly don't assume that. But hold on once again, are the people who are complaining about the poster saying that the woman is incapable of defending herself? That sounds like an insulting stereotype to me. Who says she didn't put his hand there on her own? My head spins with confusion about the hyper-sensitivity of the entire issue.

Folks, it is just a poster. Did anyone see the poster and run out to plant their hand on the first scantily-clad thigh they saw? Probably not. In fact, I would guess that very few people even saw the original poster; I haven't, and I don't know of anyone, aside from the letter-writers, who did.

How did all this flamage to The Tech improve things? Well, it made a very well-meaning group of people look rudely sexist. I don't think that anyone sat around looking at the first draft of the poster, saying, "Hey, how can we change this poster to rudely denigrate women and insult them? Let's give the chick a mini-skirt and put a studly guy's hand on her thigh."

OK, so it's a bad image that ended up on the poster. So what should we do, print the offense in The Tech? Publicize it far more than the original postering ever did? Yeah, sounds good. Much better than quietly asking the groups responsible for the poster to take it down and eliminate it from existence completely.

Hyper-sensitivity. Let's all try it for a while. I expect letters to The Tech attacking the insulting nature of Theta Delta Chi's Electric Jell-O Party (not all Jell-O is electric, and that's an insulting stereotype) or Zeta Psi's mascot (not all devils are Tazmanian, you know).

Don't ever let an opportunity to needlessly flame pass you by. I sure as hell don't.

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Bill Jackson '93, an associate opinion editor, awaits responses to this column with fire extinguisher in hand.

[gfsandwich,1,29p,0]

If we took the Middle East crisis with this much sobriety, Saddam Hussein would be eating dinner at the White House tomorrow and teaching Dan Quayle the difference between a salad fork and a soup spoon.

[gfsandwich,1,29p,0]

Hyper-sensitivity. Let's all try it for a while. I expect letters to The Tech attacking the insulting nature of Theta Delta Chi's Electric Jell-O Party (not all Jell-O is electric, and that's an insulting stereotype) or Zeta Psi's mascot (not all devils are Tazmanian, you know).