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Society Not to Blame for Raustein's Death

Column by Matthew H. Hersch

Opinion Editor

The recent assault of MIT students by demented local high school youths has highlighted many issues on campus: the pathetic state of security, the deceitful, screw-the-student mentality of the MIT administration, as well as the general decline of Western civilization. But the most disturbing aspect of brutal tragedy was the knee-jerk, touchy-feely liberalism that has oozed into every corner of this important issue.

Reading about the postmortem shows of solidarity between MIT and the Cambridge high school the alleged perpetrators attend, the vigils, and the calls for MIT students to befriend the youngsters, I was overwhelmed, frankly, by a desire to puke.

Yngve Raustein did nothing wrong when he walked through the heart of the MIT campus one evening. He did not provoke assault. His brutal murder cannot be blamed on the lack of extracurricular activities at local high schools, violent TV programs, or the failure of Raustein and his fellow Techies to tutor area dropouts.

In their drive to arrive at an understanding with the local teenage community, the organizers of the numerous recent meetings between MIT representatives and high schoolers only serve to cloud the fact that it is the responsibility of every citizen of this nation to refrain from recreational killing. Blame for the death of Raustein rests not on some failure of communication between the two campuses, but on the individuals who committed the crime and the families that raised them.

It is nice to see that we at MIT are so innocent and generous in our appraisal of human nature that we can assume the blame for the deficiencies of society. The yearning to say "That little brat wouldn't have killed my roommate if I just tried to reach out to him" is overwhelming. But such feelings only shift blame to the victims, and cloud the ethical foundations on which a stable and just society is structured.

Our society needs help. It is clear from the statements of the accused murderers that many growing up today either see no risk in criminal behavior or see no innate value in human life. Even the flocks of prepubescent girls who flocked to the sides of the alleged murders help to reveal the sickness permeating our society. Our efforts to tutor people in calculus would be better spent teaching toddlers that killing, stealing, and lying are wrong.

None of this is likely to happen. The campus is just starting to get back to normal, and pretty soon, people will forget about Raustein all together. MIT, in an effort to salvage its reputation, won't make any more of the problem than it has to. Local Cambridge government might create some high-profile tutoring programs, but lack of resolve and dearth of funds will prevent any larger actions.

The Campus Police, insisting that Raustein was killed off campus, will do little to improve security, and will likely spend the next few years scraping more MIT students off the sidewalk.