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Letters to the Editor

The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith.

I would like to file a formal harassment incident report. I am not sure if you are the correct person to notify, but it is not made clear in the harassment booklet whom I should speak to.

Late Saturday evening I was taking A Safe Ride from a party back to my house. A friend, who had also been at the party, was riding the van to her house, so we got on together.

The van was pretty crowded; I sat in the middle seat between two fraternity brothers. The one sitting on the outside got up and moved to the rear seat, so I motioned to my friend that she could come sit next to me.

"Is that your girlfriend?" the man who moved asked. My friend just half- laughed, and sat next to me. "She laughs like `Shit, no!" the man said. Then he paused. "Yeah, he's got that pink triangle shit on. He touches my leg, I have to stab him."

He went on to talk to the men he was with, and I discovered they were going to a party at a fraternity which shares a stop with my house. I made sure that I was the first person out of the van, and walked very quickly to my house before they could follow me.

Do I expect too much if I expect A Safe Ride to be safe for everyone? I certainly didn't feel safe on it that evening. A Safe Ride is there so students can feel secure; I felt threatened. I often take A Safe Ride because I'm concerned about gay-bashing, especially since my house is near the Fens, which is notorious for homophobic assaults. It doesn't seem like A Safe Ride is protection enough.

Harassment of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals on this campus is too often overlooked. Tuesday's Tech, for example, reported the harassment of "women and minorities," yet statistics about lesbian and gay harassment were conspicuously absent. Until this changes, I can't feel safe. There needs to be a standard procedure of filing harassment complaints; there needs to be a message sent to homophobic people that, "No, it's not okay to harass someone because of their sexual orientation. You can't get away with that."

I want to feel safe on my campus. It frightens me that what is called A Safe Ride isn't safe for everyone, that my campus is not safe for me. It angers me.

I would appreciate it if you would contact me about this incident, and if some action could be taken by the Institute to stop harassment of all kinds on our campus.

David R. Futato '94

Survey Skews Picture of Harassment at MIT

The results of the recent undergraduate harassment survey ["Nearly Half of Women Surveyed Report They Were Harassed," March 3] are, as Provost Samuel J. Keyser and President Charles M. Vest suggest, disturbing. However, it is the conclusions being drawn from the survey that are most troubling. Begin by looking at the test sample. Only 49 percent of those receiving the questionnaire responded. Although this is a good response rate for a survey of this type, the subject matter of the questions needs to be considered.

The subject of harassment is emotionally loaded. If someone feels they have been a victim, they are more likely to take the time to respond because it is a way for them to express their views anonymously. Those who don't feel that harassment is important are likely to toss this survey aside with the dozens of other surveys that find their ways into MIT mailboxes throughout the term. If these assumptions are true, then the sample is no longer a random sample and the results are no longer representative of the general population. Claims that "nearly half of women surveyed report they were harassed" lose their punch.

However, this is not the only problem with the survey. The questions were leading and the survey as a whole showed a bias toward the assumption that harassment is a problem for everyone. As one student predicted, "I would not dismiss the possibility of a problem. However, the outcome of this survey will certainly lead its authors to the conclusion that there is one." Here is why: Although there is a section on "Attitudes and Definitions," responses to this section were not used to weigh the meaning of responses to questions on "Personal Experience and Incidents." Harassment is a highly subjective topic. There are innumerable shades of grey dependent on the attitude of the "victim" and the intent of the "perpetrator." In general, a person cannot be harassed unless he believes he is being harassed. I have been subject to "unwanted teasing," "pressure for dates," "sexually suggestive looks," and "pressure for sexual favors." But I did not consider these acts to be harassment. However, the survey and its results are presented in such a way as to suggest that these acts are always harassment whether I, the object of these acts, consider them to be or not.

You don't need a PhD in statistics to know that a biased test given to a non-random sample of people will not produce meaningful results. However, Vest and Keyser wish to use these results as a springboard for discussion leading to changes in the MIT harassment policy. Kenneth Oye and William Watson claim that "One must conclude from these survey results that women at MIT are forced to live and work in an environment that is much more hostile and much more demanding than it is for men." I argue that one must not conclude anything from this survey other than the fact the harassment does occur. To draw more rigorous conclusions such as taking the numbers at face value or making sweeping statements about the female experience at MIT is irresponsible. To base a policy on these results is ridiculous.

Vest and Keyser wish to use this survey "wisely to create a community where all members treat each other with decency and civility."While this is a noble objective, it's a bit utopian. All we can truly hope to do is educate people in order to raise awareness, and to set up support channels for those who feel they have been victimized.

Any attempt to define guidelines for behavior will be: a source of paranoia for the professor who is afraid to hold a door open for his UROP student for fear he may accidentally brush against her, an excuse for the hypersensitive feminist who doesn't like an editorial cartoon printed in the school newspaper, a further hindrance to the already shy student who wishes to ask his classmate on a date, and a source of misery for the individual who has his past dragged out and scrutinized because someone accused him of making lewd comments.

The administration seems intent on writing down a policy. I can only hope that their policy is better written than their survey. This is not a witch hunt. There are real people on all sides of the issue.

Courtney Moriarta '93

Column Irresponsible; Impugns Counterpoint

The recent column by Bill Jackson '93 ["Thistle, Counterpoint War Rages in Print," Feb. 28] was a piece of irresponsible journalism. In his characteristically pompous style, intended to aggrandize himself and The Tech, Mr. Jackson conveniently mixed specious facts and tawdry opinion to impugn the integrity of staff members of both The Thistle and Counterpoint.

Indeed, legitimate differences of opinion exist between Counterpoint and The Thistle in the area of student journalism. The Tech is not beyond the fray of this conflict, considering its substantial control of student journalism resources. Yet instead of responsibly and objectively reporting on all the issues involved, and then perhaps commenting on them, The Tech allowed Jackson to report isolated facts and editorialize on them at the same time.

Jackson has a history of attacking and trivializing competing student journals and journalists. A public apology is unlikely to be forthcoming from either Jackson or The Tech. But members of the community should be aware of this unethical journalism, so that they may demand better behavior, or seek the truth elsewhere.

P. Angela Hsieh '94

and the editorial staff

of Counterpoint

Abortion Article meant as `Facts and Figures'

The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Alfredo J. Armendariz '93, whose letter in the last issue of The Tech challenged an article by Yeh.

First, let me state that I was not attempting to "justify the killings" by giving a historical background of abortion. When I was given the opportunity to write the article, I was asked to write a "facts and figures" article. It was meant to be mainly a synthesis of facts rather than my opinion about the morality of abortion.

My argument is not that abortion should be a means of "population control." Rather, if a woman wants to have an abortion, she should be allowed that decision, and her decision may indeed be influenced by factors in her life including her ability to support -- to feed, clothe, and care for -- a child. I agree wholeheartedly with Monnica Williams that "any woman who must say `I had to get an abortion; I had no choice because I have no money' is a shame on us all." Yes, it is a shame and I wish it weren't so. Like everybody else, I wish we had enough food to feed the United States, let alone the world. However, I do not have a solution for these problems and I cannot personally insure that these poor women have the means to meet standards of living that every human being deserves. Therefore, if they feel that they simply cannot raise a child at that point in their lives, then it is their right to have an abortion.

Again, on the question of adoption, I do indeed realize that many people of color are living "in poverty and near-poverty conditions and cannot afford the adoption fees." Something should be done to change the way this system works. But until it is changed, I must continue to point out that it is not the perfect solution some anti-choice activists would make it seem.

Emily Yeh '93

Tech Applauded for Not Running Holocaust Ad

I applaud The Tech's decision not to run the advertisement from the "Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust" ["No room for `Revisionists' in The Tech," March 3, "Tech has Responsibility to Print Truth," March 3]. Instead, The Tech ran two columns which explained the situation and the reasoning behind the decision not to run the advertisement. These columns both pointed out a growing problem in our country -- the growth of racism and hatred.

The columns by Josh Hartmann and Bill Jackson showed this problem exists. If The Tech had printed the advertisement, it would have given credence to the argument. The only way to fight this problem of anti-Semitism is through education. Unfortunately, ads such as CODOH's misuse our means of education. If anyone wants more information about the Holocaust, the library is as far as you need to go.

This year, Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) will fall on April 30. In light of this advertisement and other public disclaimers of the Holocaust, I urge everyone to write this day down on their calendars. On that Thursday, if the MIT community can join together to show solidarity for the memory of the Holocaust, then maybe we can defeat CODO* and its supporters.

Michelle Greene '93