The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 42.0°F | A Few Clouds and Breezy

Attacks Accusing The Tech of Racism Are Unfounded

Column by Martin Duke
Sports Columnist

I should begin by saying that I have, from time to time, submitted a sports article to The Tech. I don't really know the staff at all, but I am nevertheless appalled by the anti-Tech protest last Friday. Since organizer Joaquin S. Terrones '97 made some pretty serious accusations and some pretty sweeping proposals, I think we should take a serious look at them. Let me address the points one by one, as outlined in the Tuesday's Tech.

First, Terrones comments that The Tech's humor is "indicative of a growing atmosphere of intolerance on campus." Growing atmosphere? Has there been some increase in hate crimes and racial incidents between students in the past, say, four years? I'm half-Asian myself (sadly, one must be a minority to have credibility when discussing this, it seems) and have a number of minority friends, yet I have not detected any upsurge (or even a detectable, constant level) of bigotry among students.

Terrones also calls for an Asian American administrator to address the needs of Asian American students. Funny, I always thought Asian American students had pretty much the same needs as anyone else. I guess you learn something new every day.

The protesters also argue for an ethnic studies program and a multicultural center. While many may take an attitude of "why not?" it is precisely that kind of thinking that has helped cause tuition to skyrocket at campuses across the nation. More courses means more professors, more staff, more administration, and more money. Surely this alone is not the cause, but the incremental addition of academic programs that diverge from the mission of the Institute clearly plays a part.

And to what gain? There are a variety of cultural options in the rich diversity of the Boston area. Students can cross-enroll Harvard University to take advantage of their ethnic studies programs. Additionally, I don't see how such a program at MIT would create an atmosphere of racial tolerance, as most budding racists probably will not take any ethnic studies courses. Surely there is value in ethnic studies, but we all understood when we agreed to come here that to some extent the quality of most humanities would suffer for the sake of science and engineering, which represent MIT's primary mission.

Most interesting of all is the continuing attacks against The Tech itself, especially the attacks on "Rhino Man," the comic drawn by Zachary Emig '98. After making the ridiculous assertion that the cartoon is racist simply because it has an Asian villain, the attackers ignored repeated offers to debate the issue publicly, failed to respond publicly to Emig's clear reasoning, and then - most irresponsibly of all - continued their groundless attacks.

Terrones says that "it takes very little to rile people up against people of color." I don't know about you, but my WASP friends always think about joining the Ku Klux Klan after reading "Rhino Man." Emig is clearly an innocent bystander and convenient target for whatever larger agenda these people may have.

The protesters' letter to The Tech accuses the newspaper of perpetuating the "stereotypes used to oppress us daily" and announces their boycott until they "see a substantive change in [their] attitudes towards people of color." Now, I don't know anyone on the editorial staff; for all I know, they could all be violently bigoted. But am I alone in failing to detect one shred of evidence that the newspaper itself has a racist agenda?

All the groups that signed the letter have declined to comment further in The Tech. How very convenient for them to avoid any discussion in what is the most relevant and widely read publication on campus. It is not surprising when you consider the flimsiness of most of their accusations.

What I find most amusing is the trumped-up sense of moral indignation the protesters have, as if the lack of an ethnic studies program and a comic strip about a talking rhino were attempts to oppress them, rather than a simple allocation of financial priorities and a guy innocently trying to entertain us, respectively.

I can afford to be amused; I'm a graduating senior. If you're going to be here longer and don't want every group that uses hyperbole and strong-arm tactics to succeed, stand up now. Write letters. If you are a member of one of the groups that signed the letter and you disagree with your leadership, speak out. It's the least you can do to make this a better place.