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Concern surrounds picture book cover

By Eva Moy

In August, President Charles M. Vest made a last-minute decision to stop distribution of the Technology Community Association's annual Freshman Picture Book. He felt that its cover drawing of a monkey could be perceived as racist by African Americans. Publishing the books with new covers delayed their delivery until Aug. 30, after Residence and Orientation Week had already begun.

The original cover shows a monkey wearing glasses, dressed in a cap and a lab coat with a pocket protector, and holding a calculator. The monkey has one arm raised and is asking a question: "What does Œintuitively obvious' mean?"

"The concern about the picture is that the symbolism of a monkey type of creature has traditionally been used negatively in a racist manner in the United States to depict African Americans," said Susan D. Allen, assistant dean for residence and campus activities.

The caption added to that perception, Allen said. "There are three videos produced at MIT that are entitled ŒIntuitively Obvious' done by Black, Hispanic, and Asian students on what it is like to be a Black, Hispanic, or an Asian at MIT," Allen said.

The TCA, a student-run and funded nonprofit organization, produces the picture books. Risa H. Wechsler '96, who helped to design the cover for TCA, said there was no particular reason why the monkey was chosen.

President Vest said he stopped the distribution of the picture books with the original cover because the cover "could be misinterpreted as racially derogatory."

"Experiences on many campuses, including ours, clearly indicate such events have caused substantial anguish within the student body and community, despite the fact that no ill will was intended," Vest said.