Letters to the editorI was walking down the Infinite Corridor Monday morning when I saw the only word that induces pure rage in me on a poster. In fact, I refuse to write it here, since I can not stand the sight of it. My rage soon turned to confusion, because this poster stated that the racial slurs were used by members of my fraternity. Being a black member of my fraternity, I am put in somewhat of a Catch 22 position. I will be the first to agree that there is racism in fraternities at MIT. However, my fraternity, without a doubt, is not one of them. We are a fraternity which prides itself on its diversity. We have blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, Jews, and Christians all living together. By living there I was able to gain a better understanding of all those cultures and grow strong friendships with people from each group. One disadvantage of that diversity is that it is harder for each member to hold on to his individual culture and ethnicity. For that reason each person exerts his own ethnicity harder while in that environment. This causes some tension, but does not cause racism.
I am very proud of the members of Chocolate City for making an issue of this, because it is something that needs to be dealt with. However, my fraternity is not one of the fraternities which needs to be exposed for racism. I wish that Chocolate City had approached my fraternity before staging its protest so that this could have been cleared up, but maybe then there would have been no attention drawn to an important subject.
No one can defend those actions, and who would want to? I applaud you for bringing to the surface an important issue. My fraternity is not a racist fraternity, and in fact, will always stand behind the black cause, since I will always stand behind it and my brothers will always stand behind me.
Joshua Powlesson '92
PBE Incident Raises Questions About Racism
MIT is abuzz. People are in shock. They can't believe that on March 13 at 3:30 a.m. racist expletives could be heard from a window of Phi Beta Epsilon. "Phi Beta Epsilon?" they ask. PBE, by the statements of its members, prides itself in its diversity. It is a place where "Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, Jews and Christians all [live] together," says Joshua Powlesson '92, a resident of PBE. In his words, "There is racism in fraternities at MIT. However my fraternity, without a doubt, is not one of them." Congratulations, Mr. Powlesson, you have found utopia.
It seems some of us have decided that utopia can exist if there is tokenism. As one member of PBE said, "They have at least one black person in every pledge class." That sounds like the existence and uniqueness theorem. It is time that we realize that ethnicity is not a chemical that magically diffuses, that people do not meld just because they are in each others' company. If we put David Duke, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi in a room, there is racism. There is diversity, but there is still racism.
Even though members of this fraternity have had exposure to all of this diversity, they still view African-Americans on this campus, but outside of their fraternity, as a monolith. This is evidenced by the fact that after talking to an African-American student at MIT who had no affiliation with Chocolate City, they assumed that this individual could speak for all of the brothers in Chocolate City on whether they could come to Chocolate City and talk. We haven't ever turned away anyone who wanted to talk.
Not once have we heard from PBE that if something happened they are sorry. All we have heard from them is that someone was indeed screaming profanities that night. In fact, they were screaming "Fuck the Institute!" according to the president of PBE, "but they did not say what you said they said." Okay, we believe you.
It was a mere coincidence that an amateur with a video recorder was present during the beating of Rodney King. It was a mere coincidence that four black students were privy to the shouts from PBE. Whenever these coincidences exist, it is our responsibility to see to it that the issues raised are addressed. They set the tone for the instances that can't be substantiated, of which there are many.
Dale LeFebvre '93
Kessler Letter a `Cheap Shot' at Referendum
In the Undergraduate Association election held March 10, the free speech referendum passed overwhelmingly. Students voted that they should have the same freedom of speech with regard to the Institute that students have at public universities, a freedom they can have only if Institute policies are revised. And they specifically voted to revise the Institute harassment policy to provide more protection for freedom of speech, rejecting the view that protecting freedom of speech will somehow cause harassment. But the comments of UA Vice President David J. Kessler '94 ["Students Need More Facts to Make Informed Decisions," Mar. 9] on the referendum still require correction if the results of the referendum are to be viewed in proper perspective.
Aside from its personal attacks, the main thrust of Kessler's letter is that the third referendum question was somehow unbalanced because "it gives no context of what costs are involved." Harassment, Kessler suggests, might increase if freedom of speech is increased -- but referendum advocates have only suggested providing protection for speech which is well-intentioned, political in nature, or not known to be offensive. If Kessler believes that such speech constitutes harassment, he should say so. If not, then it is difficult to see how he could believe protecting it would increase harassment or why such a view should be incorporated into the question. Perhaps he hopes the chilling effect of banning legitimate speech would help to curb harassment -- but such an attitude is inappropriate in a free society.
The real lack of balance is in the current policy, which reflects no concern for freedom of speech at all, and provides no safeguards for it. Where were Kessler and other referendum critics when the policy was written? Why do they only raise the question of balance now, when a long-ignored value is introduced into discussion? The referendum questions have increased balance in discussion by encouraging consideration of students' personal freedoms, which had previously been ignored. It is the duty of Kessler and others at the UA and Graduate Student Council to ensure protection for students' freedom of expression, not to take cheap shots at those who are trying to do the work student government should have done.
Lars E. Bader G