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TCA Should Relinquish Control of HowToGAMIT

TCA Should Relinquish Control of HowToGAMIT

I was extremely disappointed to read the front-page story in The Tech on HowToGAMIT ["Funding, Staff Shortfalls Doom HowToGAMIT," Oct. 24]. The title is wrong; perhaps it should read, "TCA Incompetence Dooms HowToGAMIT."

At the beginning of this past summer, Traci L. Williams '95 posted a notice which read that HowToGAMIT was not expected to be published this year again, because of the same problems that have plagued the book for the past several years. Just like last year, a large number of people were willing to help save the book. William's statement that "Right now, no one wants to write it" may apply to the Technology Community Association, but not to the many students who were willing to work this past summer to see the book in print. If the TCA had committed to publication and communicated its need for help, an outpouring of help would have come.

Unfortunately, TCA did not make any commitment this past summer. Instead there was discussion of whether TCA should even publish the guide, or whether publication should be turned over to The Tech, the Lecture Series Committee, Alpha Phi Omega, or some other large campus service organization, or whether perhaps the guidebook should be placed on the World-Wide Web. The idea of putting HowToGAMIT (in lieu of printing) on the Web had been considered in last year, but rejected since because the contributors felt that incoming freshmen would rather have a physical guidebook they could carry around campus and around town than be required to learn how to use a Web browsing program.

HowToGAMITis a wonderful information resource and delightful view of student culture at MIT. Topics as diverse as local restaurant reviews, tips on dealing with various MIT administrative offices, lyrics to the MIT Drinking Song, what to do if arrested, locations of women's bathrooms, hacking, "Bawston" accents, and important phone numbers are all included in this small paperback. HowToGAMIT is Nightline in book form.

Unfortunately, this year's freshmen, having never received the book, cannot be expected to understand its importance.

TCA has had financial difficulty for years; it has had staff problems for years; it has threatened not to publish the best guidebook to MIT for years; it has failed to communicate its troubles and come up with strategies to deal with them. All these suggest to me that the TCA should surrender HowToGAMIT to a responsible organization. If I had to publish the guide by myself, I know it would get done. HowToGAMIT is not doomed, but TCA might be.

When will TCA make the non-readable source files of HowToGAMIT publicly available? Why hasn't TCA already published the guidebook on the Web, where it could be interactively updated? What did TCA do all summer? I expect answers to such questions when The Tech runs a front-page story.

Richard J. Barbalace '94

HowToGAMIT contributor