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Oscillation demonstration offensive

(Editor's note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Professor George Bekefi.)

We were dismayed by the photo on the front cover of The Tech [Sept. 13, 1991] of a belly dancer in Physics III (8.03). We understand your desire to make physics an exciting course for students, particularly in the first week of class. However, it is clear that this particular method makes physics appealing to heterosexual male students, but does quite the opposite for women and gay male students. Both the classroom demonstration and the Tech photo are entirely inappropriate in an institution which is attempting to become more hospitable to women and a diverse population.

The main lesson learned by watching a belly dancer in class is that women are sexual objects, rather than students who are here to study. Such a demonstration places an emphasis on sex rather than education. "Oscillatory motion" could easily be demonstrated in many other ways which would not require the use of a woman's body as an object of study, but could be entertaining for all members of the class.

This demonstration was so clearly directed at heterosexual males that it suggests that women students are somehow extraneous or invisible. In an undergraduate Course which is currently only 18 percent women, it seems shortsighted to alienate women further with such demonstrations. We wonder who funded this demonstration; it seems these monies could be much better used to actively recruit women students.

The Tech appears to have the same heterosexual male perspective, attempting to make the paper more interesting by the prominent display of the woman belly dancer. Again, this appeals to straight men, but alienated women and gay men. The Tech, as the main campus newspaper, has a responsibility to make MIT more welcoming to a diverse population.

We are disappointed to see once again that President Charles M. Vest's stated commitment to diversity and a hospitable atmosphere for women has not been carried out by all members of the MIT community.

Sasha K. Wood '93->

Sandra Martin->


Department of Women's Studies->

and three others->