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Thistle distribution hit by another attack

By Prabhat Mehta

Approximately 1300 copies of The Thistle, a publication of MIT's Alternative News Collective, were found destroyed early Tuesday morning, several hours after distribution in Lobby 7. Steven D. Penn G, an ANC member, said he found 500 copies thrown into the toilets and garbage cans of the room 7-107 men's bathroom near Lobby 7 and 800 hundred more in garbage cans nearby.

Jennifer Y. C. Huang '90, a member of the collective, said copies of The Thistle's "Science for the People" issue had been distributed at 5 pm Monday evening, with approximately 1600 copies going to Lobby 7. At approximately 1 am Tuesday, Andres Villarreal G, another member of the collective, passed by Lobby 7 and discovered that all of the issues were gone. He found some copies in the 7-107 bathroom, and proceeded to call Penn.

Penn and Villarreal found the rest of the issues, but only managed to salvage 300 from garbage cans. The issues in the bathroom garbage cans had been purposely soaked in water, Penn said.

The 1300 issues lost that night represented 17 percent of The Thistle's 7500-issue campus press run. Only part of the 7500 issues, however, were distributed around campus Monday evening.

The collective, a leftist group, denounced the destruction in a letter written to The Tech. "We are ... thoroughly disgusted by and totally condemn the recent assaults on the MIT newspaper The Thistle," reads the letter.

"That some individuals would deign actively and illegally to censor us and suppress our newspaper indicates that there is a dangerous level of intolerance at MIT," continues the letter.

In an interview, Penn said, "I feel actions like this are antithetical to an educational institution like this."

The Campus Police were not notified of this incident, Penn said, although the administration was informed. The collective had no knowledge of anyone involved, Penn added.

Not the first time

This was not the first time copies of The Thistle had been destroyed, Penn said. The Thistle has continually had problems with issues being thrown away in the evenings, when the hallways are empty. During Residence/Orientation Week last fall, sorority members organized to destroy copies of The Thistle's rush edition, according to Penn. The rush edition contained at least two articles critical of fraternities on campus, Penn said.

Penn and several other collective members, suspecting that issues had been thrown away maliciously, held watch over Lobby 7 distribution during rush week. A group of women formed a circle near the door facing Massachusetts Avenue, he said, and one would occasionally leave the circle, pick up a stack of Thistles, walk down the Infinite Corridor to the nearest garbage can, throw them away, and come rejoin the circle.

During the rush week distribution, Penn said members of the collective pulled approximately 1500 Thistles out of garbage cans and redistributed them.

The rush week attacks on The Thistle were the result of resentment on the part of the InterFraternity Council, said Penn. He singled out former IFC President Anthony N. Gerber '90 and Alpha Chi Omega member Maria T. Arriola '90, whom Penn claimed was Gerber's girlfriend at the time. Arriola led the circle of women the day the collective caught them throwing away Thistles, according to Penn. "The IFC [president] was outraged and his girlfriend was leading a troop of women to get the paper," he said.

Penn said he confronted Arriola after she threw away a stack of Thistles herself and that she at first denied it but then defended her actions.

In an interview last night, Arriola denied having led anyone in an attack against The Thistle. But she did not deny involvement in throwing out copies. "It's a lie; I led no such band of women.... I never instructed anyone to throw papers, never instructed or conspired with anyone," she said. "I may have thrown out a copy myself, but not hoards and hoards," she added.

Limited tolerance

Members of the collective felt that The Thistle's struggle to remain on the newsstands stemmed from an environment of limited tolerance on campus.

"Students are very intolerant about anything that criticizes the current system," Huang said. "We didn't print anything that attacks anyone."

Penn claimed MIT was more insensitive to minority opinion than other schools. "The environment at MIT does not encourage a forum for a wide array of debate," he said.

Both Huang and Penn said they did not understand why the latest issue of The Thistle received such hostility. Both thought the subject of this week's issue -- science for the people -- was relatively uncontroversial in comparison to other subjects The Thistle has dealt with.

The collective has not decided whether it will change the way its issues are distributed or whether it should pursue this latest incident further.