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Frosh Reaction to Protest Mixed

By Hyun Soo Kim
Associate News Editor

Freshmen expressed mixed views on the demonstration held before Phi Beta Epsilon yesterday, which, according to Tommie A. Henderson '95, one of the rally's organizers, was to promote racial awareness on campus.

Both Henderson and Michael K. Daly '94, president of PBE, said that many freshmen had asked questions about the incident last spring that precipitated the two-day demonstration, when someone shouted racial epithets from a PBE window at four black students passing by.

Daly declined to comment on what effect the rally would have on PBE's rush. It was still too early to tell, he said. However, many freshmen visiting PBE were very concerned about the incident, he added.

Freshman Juan C. Fuenmayor expressed surprise at the incident last spring. He said, "You would expect MIT to be focused on intelligent matters. With people so smart here, it is surprising that such a stupid thing happened." He added that he would not rush PBE.

Other freshmen were not surprised that incidents heightening racial tensions occurred at MIT. Reginald Paulding '97 said, "This is like the real world where stuff like that does happen. When I came here I was sort of open to rushing a fraternity, but now I don't think I will."

"I was aware of this [incident] before," said Martin Gilkes '97. "I heard about this last year, from a person in PBE, who told me a different account. I don't know who to believe. I heard both accounts."

Keith V. Bevans '95, another rally organizer, said, "A lot of people have asked us and PBE questions about the incident. They'll hear both sides of the story and will make intelligent decisions on their own."

Bevans added that some freshmen are not interested in the issue of racial discrimination at MIT. "We are trying to raise the level of awareness, MIT needs to have a set policy to handle issues like this quickly. We don't want issues like this to pass by unnoticed. Some freshmen aren't interested, and say that they don't want to know about the problem," he said.

"I just hope that freshmen will make an informed decision that they feel comfortable with," Daly said.

Mark Randall, another demonstrator, said that PBE has been very cooperative and that there were no hostilities on either side.

Around 15 demonstrators distributed flyers which suggested that "freshmen talk to as many people as possible about this subject ... to make the best decisions during this R/O Week."

Tze Ho Lee '97, after reading the account of the incident in the flyer, said, "No, I wouldn't rush PBE. I think they were not right in doing this."

In addition to informing freshmen about the incident, the protesters hope to increase discussion of race relations on campus and encourage PBE to express its feelings to the community, Henderson said.

Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, is hopeful that the protest and other discussions between PBE and the protesters will succeed in improving race relations.

Despite strained relations last spring, leaders from PBE and the protest group held private meetings before the protest, apparently to discuss plans for the protest and future dialog. Neither Henderson or Daly would comment on the content of the meetings, however.

"I think that it's a very positive thing that we can both sit down at the same table," Daly said.

Smith was pleased that students are working on solutions. "Student generated ideas are generally better than dean generated ideas," he said.

"This is really a good group," Smith continued. "They have certain natural problem solving bents."