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Student art project attracts MDC police

By Joanna E. Stone

At that time of the term when the MIT campus appears flooded with visual arts class projects, it seems noteworthy to report that one such project sparked the arrival of police.

The Thursday before last, at about 11:15 pm, Boston, MIT and Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) police responded to what they believed might have been a distress call on the Charles River in front of MacGregor House. What they had actually seen was an Introduction to Three-Dimensional Design (4.322) art project.

Alexander B. Min '91, in an attempt to show "the juxtaposition of ice with fire," placed his hollow ice sculpture into the Charles, then lit the alcohol in the sculpture ablaze while a 50-foot flare flew up overhead. His professor, Ritsuko Taho, and class members had come to watch the project and were present when the police arrived.

"The police questioned my professor, as well as me. But my professor knew nothing about what the project would be before hand. I wanted it to be a surprise," Min said.

The flare used in the project was not a legal distress call. Only 200-foot flares are distress calls, which Min knew because he is a member of the Marines Reserve Officers Training Corps.

"I guess it was a false signal. Our guys saw it and drove by and talked to some of the guys," said Campus Police Lt. John E. Driscoll. "But we didn't stay. It wasn't our jurisdiction."

The incident was within MDC jurisdiction, and the only officer to stay was an MDC officer.

"She [Taho] was one of the people taken aside. She was hassled by the [MDC] cop. He said he was going to take us both to court," Min said.

According to Min, the officer left without issuing a ticket of any sort. "He refused to tell us his name or badge number or what the charges were," Min said.

The MDC would not release any information from the report on the case. However, one officer said that since Min had not received a summons by now, it was unlikely that he would be summoned to court.

"Ninety percent of the time, [the officers] don't actually file the complaint. They like to use it to intimidate," the officer explained.

Taho could not be reached for comment on the incident.