Letters to the EditorIn wondering "One would think that people at MIT are a bit more intelligent than your average male chauvinist pig... If we here are among the very smartest, how can a group of individuals be so ignorant?" the co-signers of the letter ["Signs Show Lack of Respect for Women," Dec. 1] both strike at the heart of the problem and miss the point completely.
The question strikes at the heart of the problem because the most insidious aspect of sexism, racism, homophobia, and any other pattern of thought which relies on the exaggeration of perceived differences between people to obscure their underlying essential sameness, is that intelligence may be used equally well as a tool for buttressing as for dismantling the mentality of intolerance. The problem with sexists and racists and homophobes is not their lack of intelligence but the vigorous way they apply their intelligence toward sexist, racist, and homophobic ends. To argue otherwise is to define intelligence as belief in a given set of principles, rather than as the ability to manipulate information; most people, after all, accept as "fact" only what already corresponds to their preconceptions and prejudices.
It is precisely in this distinction between intelligence and open-mindedness that the question misses the point. The MIT community, stuffing itself on a steady diet of self-congratulation and smug assertions of uniqueness, seems unable to digest the idea that our excellence is limited to a relatively narrow rea lm of human endeavor. Though on average our SAT scores and mathematical-analytical skills may be higher than the norm, in all other respects of human capacity we are probably a fairly representative cross-section (of a sick society). If we spent half the energy examining our beliefs as we do ballyhooing our technical prowess, we might after all become the "unique" community we claim to be.
David Lorenzetti G
Don't Blame CPs; Look Out For Yourself
I am writing this letter in response to Matthew Hersch's column ["Don't Blame Campus Crime on the Victims," Dec.4] He writes "As a student and, damn it, a paying client of the Corporation, I expect nothing less, and I will not tolerate the administration's criminal negligence in regard to my safety any more... Campus Police, stop whining and start doing your job.'' Taken out of context, it would seem Hersch is speaking about the recent disturbing rash of violent crimes; instead, he's only complaining about the recent blight of pickpockets. While I am very concerned about campus safety and have often discoursed (sometimes even flamed) about the campus police, and do not usually believe in blaming the victims of crime, I think Hersch's article was written in an irrational tone.
I do not believe that it is unreasonable to ask MIT students and staff to look after their own belongings, including those which are on their persons. Should I leave my bookbag somewhere and it gets stolen, I don't believe the campus police are to blame for not being there watching over my bag while I am not there. If I get pickpocketed crossing 77 Massachusetts Ave. some day, I do not think the campus police should have been standing there watching every pedestrian's pair of hands to make sure no one is reaching for my wallet. That kind of police presence (overwhelming numbers, ready to detain anybody who does anything suspicious or looks like they might) is not cost effective, and if anything would be likely to create more problems on campus, not less. If more police were to be deployed, I'd rather that the police force be deployed at the times and places where past history tells us violent crimes tend to occur than to stop pickpocketers.
There are serious political and personal issues being alluded to when one talks about ``blaming the victim of the crime," especially in crimes of violence like rape or mugging. (Clearly, if pickpockets are the non-bold, non-confrontational, non-armed wimps that Hersch suggests they are, pickpocketing does not fall into this category.) To accuse the campus police of blaming the victims is a manipulative attempt to co-opt the significance and emotional impact of crimes which are not comparable. The campus police force is here to protect us, indeed, but part of their job is also to inform us how we may protect ourselves. We are also responsible for looking after our own possessions and our own safety, too -- something which Hersch seems to deny in his last paragraph, believing that he is entitled to perfect safety 24 hours a day, anywhere he is, without taking any precautions or preventive action on his own part.
Ping-Shun Huang '94
Discuss In-Line Skating Ban With Students
I have recently been informed that in-line skating will be banned from the interior of MIT buildings. This is a great mistake on the part of MIT. The MIT campus is large, and the 10 minutes officially allotted between classes is not adequate for me to travel from Building 1 to Building E10. In-line skates allow me to make my class on time.
Many of our freedoms are already restricted here at MIT. The freedom to walk in front of Hayden Library without fear for our lives. The freedom to work without sexual harrassment. Removing this additional freedom without any discussion of the issues with students, without any alternative proposals debated, would be a great mistake on the part of the administration.
Cyrus H. Shaoul '93
``No Rollerblading'' Policy Disappointing
The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Stephen D. Immerman, MIT Director of Special Services.
I am writing to express my utter disappointment over the complete lunacy of instituting a "no Rollerblading" policy. (In fact, "Rollerblade" is a registered corporate trademark; the activity you wish to suppress is properly called "in-line skating.") That MIT would empower the campus police to stop a student on Rollerblades and assign that student a $25.00 fine is laughable. I know that I feel much safer now, not having to worry about those awful in-line skaters. Perhaps this warm-fuzzy, policy-induced euphoria will help me overlook other pesky problems such as the robberies, car thefts, muggings, and murders that also occur on our campus with almost as great a frequency.
How can the administration implement this policy with a straight face? Your memo of Nov. 30 cites "numerous complaints" and "near-miss situations" involving students who chose to in-line skate. I'm frightened by some of my classmates who stay at Athena a little too long between showers, but nobody thinks to ban them. There are also "numerous complaints" about people who drive drunk, but nobody has attempted to institute a policy prohibiting driving. Why not just deal with members of the campus community who cause accidents via their recklessness? Whether a person happens to be wearing Rollerblades should be irrelevant to the greater issue of safety.
About this outcry over safety: I thoroughly agree that every individual on campus should be more aware of crime and other hazards. The Undergraduate Association Finance Board has even paid for Campus Police to patrol various student groups' parties, performances, and other functions. But any MIT student could narrate an exhaustive list of oh-so-many more important and pressing safety concerns. Are more officers going to be hired to apprehend violators of this Institute policy? Surely we can't expect our already overburdened police force to single-handedly take on the ubiquitous lawbreakers who threaten the peace and campus tranquility by wearing rollerblades.
The administration is missing the point here. People do not rollerblade in order to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting populace. Students, staff, and faculty who in-line skate do so for enjoyment, for exercise, and to save time. To help control the outrageous MIT parking problem. To quicken the trek from New House to Sloan, or from the Back Bay to class.
The real reason behind collisions in the hallways is people not paying attention. Staff members dart between offices along the Infinite Corridor without even looking. They're dangerous to anybody walking. On Tuesdays and Fridays, half the pedestrians in the halls have their heads buried in The Tech. Other students scurry along with their heads down, watching nothing but their feet. The people on campus who are undeniably, totally aware of their surroundings are the rollerbladers. The very nature of the activity demands it. We are constantly surveying the landscape for potential hazards, such as the oblivious person making a left turn out of the donut stand into the oncoming horde returning from 26-100, or the two friends who pass each other and then suddenly stop in the middle if the corridor to talk. The poetic justice is that as more people turn to rollerblades as modes of personal transport, the entire awareness level of the general MIT population will rise. Maybe that's what is ultimately needed to make MIT a safer place.
Check the Bursar's office; my fine for breaking the policy has already been paid. It cost me $18,000 this year, plus $20 for an Athletic Card. I do indeed hope that the Institute will repeal this policy. Until then, if a cop wants me to "pull over" for wearing my rollerblades inside buildings, he'll just have to shoot me.
Matthew S. Warren '93
Chairman, UA Finance Board
Clarification Needed on Financial Aid Rules
The article on financial aid ["Financial Aid Rules Changed," Dec. 4] was an excellent summary of many of the new rules governing the awarding of financial aid resulting from the passage of the re-authoritization of the Higher Education Act. However, a few of the statements in the article need some additional clarification.
We at the Student Financial Aid Office do not recommend, generally, that students consider refinancing their current Stafford Loans to take advantage of the new interest rates. There are fees which are associated with initiating a Stafford Loan which would make such refinancing too costly. Limits on annual borrowing would also make it impossible to replace prior year loans with borrowing this year under the new rules.
For most students currently borrowing under the Stafford Loan program, the interest rate upon graduation is 8 percent during the first four years of repayment and 10 percent beginning in the fifth year of repayment. The new rules have a provision for paying back to the student's outstanding balance the "windfall" resulting from the difference between these higher rates and lower market rates. The details of this formula are still being worked out but will be available soon.
The new rules governing federal financial aid reflect political decisions to open access to federal loans to more families from higher income brackets. I support these efforts entirely, but only when they are introduced without reducing access to the neediest families. I have two major concems with the current law. First, as The Tech correctly reported, the new rules will reduce Pell awards to students in order to fund the program's availability to higher income families. Secondly, the rules which have expanded federally subsidized loans to all families regardless of income could be easy targets for congressional budget-cutters. In the past, stories of very wealthy families using federally subsidized loans were used to limit the use of these loans. My concern is that reformers are very likely again to throw the baby out with the bath water and use similar tales to justify reneging on commitments to assure access to federal loans by middle income families.
Stanley G. Hudson
Director of Financial Aid