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letter (fortunato)

I think that Sasha K. Wood '93, Sandy Martin, and the others have taken an extremely hard attitude towards Professor George Bekefi and The Tech's staff ["Oscillation demonstration offensive," Sept. 17]. To first address the issue of their attitude to The Tech, I must wonder what they think the role of a newspaper is. Do they truly believe, as this letter implies, that a newspaper's role is to reward proper attitudes which "make MIT more welcoming to a diverse population"? I completely agree with the idea that we should be looking to establish "a diverse population" here at MIT, but that job has nothing to do with the functioning of a newspaper.

I was raised to believe that a newspaper's main obligation and responsibility to its readers is to inform. The Tech article did just that, informed its readership of an unusual event, and the reason for which it occurred, according to the man who arranged it.

These women accuse The Tech of showing the picture to "make the paper more interesting." Why not, I ask? I liked the photo as an interesting bit of information about a school I am just beginning to know. Their accusation that the photo was printed solely to make the paper more interesting seems out of place, and irrelevant, in that The Tech is given

out free and has no need to catch a reader as professional papers do.

Now, to the more intriguing criticism of the professor himself. I believe that his primary responsibility is to teach his subject, and to do that he has the right to try to spice up his class with an unusual demonstration.

As a female student, I would have been equally intrigued to see a standard formula, such as that for oscillatory motion, demonstrated in such an unusual and intriguing way, as any of my male classmates. In fact, rather than criticize the professor for "alienating" me, I would have been grateful for the opportunity to ask a few questions to someone of such an interesting profession, an occasion which might never have otherwise come up in my life, not to mention the gratitude that any student feels towards a professor who recognizes the need for an occasional break from the routine.

I would claim these women are in no position to tell anyone what the "main lesson learned by watching a belly dancer in class is" any more than I am, for the simple reason that neither I, nor they, were there to observe the effect on the class. Their accusation that "such a demonstration places an emphasis on sex," while the photo seemed to show Bekefi stressing the formula for oscillatory motion as he is displaying a large banner with the formula on it in front of the dancer.

Wood and Martin have belittled their own sex by saying that such a demonstration could "suggest that women students are somehow extraneous or invisible." They have relegated the belly dancer to an object of solely sexual interest and ignored the interest such an archaic profession, by our standards, would naturally provoke in today's modern student, male or female, gay or straight.

I felt much more offended reading this letter than I would have felt as a student in the class, not only because of the content of the letter itself but also because of the fact that these women are trying to browbeat a faculty member, an act which appalls me.

I think it especially sad that the coordinator of the Department of Women's Studies feels it necessary to be so hard in a situation which was clearly a light-hearted attempt to motivate one classroom of students. There are still serious battles to be fought by women in this country, and those who would serve the cause of feminism should not expose the movement to ridicule by making absurd charges in trivial situations.

Anna G. Fortunato '95->