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Letters to the Editor

As system managers of private mainframes on campus, we would like to express our surprise and disappointment upon discovering that the root account on Project Athena had been used as a forum of advertisement and propaganda of a political nature. We are referring to the electronic mail that was sent from the root account to most of the mailing lists on Athena, and thus to most Athena users, advertising the protest of "Police brutality and the travesty of justice in the recent Rodney King trial."

First, we would like to clarify that we are not offering any opinion on the Rodney King trial, nor are we offering any negative commentary on the protest itself. In fact, our opinions on that matter are positive; we are happy to see that any political activism on campus has been limited to the peaceful and therefore constructive variety.

However, we believe that advertising partisan political activity in the manner in which it was done was completely uncalled for. Project Athena is a public workplace; most probably agree with us that the expressions of political opinion and the groups that espouse them should operate on the private level. That is what mailing lists are for. It is not the privilege of system managers to use their position of power to express their opinions or advertise partisan events. In fact, it is the responsibility of system managers to make sure that such activity does not get out of hand, and that any global electronic mailing activity is limited to what Athena was intended for: announcements regarding the status of applications that help students do their work.

We are surprised and disappointed that the system manager on Athena (1) did not fulfill his/her responsibility to keep the Athena environment free of such activity, and (2) actually assisted in submitting said material in a public forum in which it does not belong. If, by chance, this piece of email was the result of a hack by the protest's organizers, and the system manager knew nothing of it, then our message applies to them as well: you have used the Athena environment in a manner in which it was not intended. Either way, we are saddened to see a mainframe environment used in this manner, and shudder at the thought of this setting a precedent of continued Athena misuse in the future.

John A. Barone '94

Dom J. Sartorio '94

Tech Misrepresents UA Efforts

The Tech, in its editorial last Friday, implicates the Undergraduate Association in a Student Life Fee campaign characterized by deceptive referenda, ulterior motives, and unwarranted conclusions that a fifteen percent referendum constitutes a "mandate" ["Referendum Vote Is Not a Mandate," May 1].

First, UA President Stacy E. McGeever '93 never said the results of the referendum were a "mandate" at all. A 15 percent turnout, even when four out of five people responded yes, is clearly not a "mandate from the people" for change. It was a reporter's mistake that led to that attribution appearing in last Tuesday's article ["Voters Favor Student Life Fee, But Turnout is `Disappointing,' " April 28], not a statement by McGeever.

Second, the referenda questions were simple ones and students knew what we meant. We wanted a referendum to gather opinion on the general idea of a Student Life Fee, not to involve the entire campus in a debate over minutiae. But more importantly, the referendum questions weren't supposed to embody every detail of the proposal. It was just too complicated to explain fully in a few sentences of reasonable length. We produced the pamphlet to provide the details and designed the referendum to ask the central question -- whether the Fee was a good idea in the first place.

The Tech goes searching for a reason for the low turnout and comes up with a lack of "discussion and student input." But do we really need another term's worth of discussion? Are the questions really that thought-provoking? It seems pretty basic: should students control the money, or should the administration? We tried to develop a well-thought out proposal that might just have a chance of being liked by students, being tolerated by administrators, and doing some good along the way. It was a modest proposal and, unfortunately, the cost of that seemed to be lower student interest.

it. The campus may not have screamed "yes" at the top of their lungs, but it conclusively did not scream, or even whisper, "no." That the referendum is a mandate from the campus to plow forward full steam ahead is certainly pushing it. That it guides one to believe that the UA would not be doing students a disservice by going forward with the Fee seems more reasonable.

Stacy E. McGeever '93


J. Paul Kirby `92

UA<\p>Vice President