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'Rhino Man,' Ethnic Studies Complaints Are Overblown

Guest column by Omri Schwarz

I've been here at MIT four years now. I remember MIT's only book-burning - of the harassment guide. I remember The Thistle being far more polemic in its anti-rush issue. I'm at a loss concerning recent events. A group of students is on a crusade against racism, and The Tech has become its windmill.

Several student groups have complained that The Tech's comic strip "Rhino Man" has an Asian villain and that The Tech printed a Washington Post article stating that some people speculated the that Empire State shooting a few months back was done by an Arab terrorist in the hours immediately following the incident.

These students have provided no evidence to back up their conclusion that The Tech is racist. According to these students, it is wrong to report that people sometimes carry prejudices. If you report on prejudice, you must be prejudiced yourself. This is a very interesting supposition.

They have also claimed that "Rhino Man" stirs anti-Asian passions. Well, none of my white friends have been moved by "Rhino Man" to join the Klan. Does anyone know of any? Marvel's comic strip "X-Men" has had a Jewish villain for years. Yet not once has the Anti-Defamation League attributed an anti-Semitic incident to the influence of "X-Men," even though the average "X-Men" fan is far more likely to be influenced by popular culture than the average MIT student, who can be influenced only with free food. I guess it's because those "X-Men" fans must have learned from the comic strip that Jews have the ability to generate strong magnetic fields and are thus best left unpestered.

The protesters also demand an ethnic studies program and an Asian liaison to the administration. I find their reasoning uncompelling. Do they think that racist demagogue Zachary Emig '98, author of "Rhino Man," will go to an ethnic studies subject, become enlightened, and turn the (now-dead) antagonist of "Rhino Man" Dr. Sasori into Barney the purple dinosaur? Or do they think an Asian liaison will make Emig cower in fear, casting away his pencil, and muttering "those damned Asians haven't heard the last of me!"?

Before these measures are implemented, I must ask, how large should an ethnic group be before it has a liaison? Should there be other criteria? Also, is an ethnic studies program really something we want attached to MIT's good name? I think not, when I observe that the ethnic studies program at CUNY has Leonard Jeffries, who lectures that whites are all "ice people," cruel and cold, while blacks are all "sun people," devoted to truth and light. I also can't help thinking of Wellesley's Tony Martin, who claims that the Jews ran the slave trade (an interesting accusation, considering that when the trade began, Jews were banished from most of the countries that practiced slavery).

This is why I put a petition on the Web against these measures. The text follows after my signature. Following that I am enclosing to The Tech a list of the signatories. Please observe that the petition uses softer language than what I've written above, and associate only the petition with the signers.

"Petition to prevent yet another addition to tuition bill.

We, the undersigned, feel that although there are scattered incidents of racial tension on the campus, they do not call for the following measures:

Ethnic studies program

Such programs are available at Harvard and Wellesley.

It would be redundant to start one at MIT.

Asian students liaison

We students can speak for ourselves. There is no need for another administrator.

Mandatory sensitivity training during R/O

We feel that freshmen should be able to decide whether or not they should attend such training.

Other measures

We also feel that changes in the faculty hiring policy, course offerings, and faculty time obligations shouldn't occur because of "Rhino Man" or The Tech. Those issues should stay within the student body."

Signed: Michael P. Dakin '00, Scott D. Schneider '99, Jay P. Muchnij '97, Erik Altman '83, Kevin B. Theobald '83, Charles L. Coffing '98, Michael Spitznagel '99, Benjamin Ho '00, John R. Bender '00, Autumn Steuckrath '00, Andre P. Reyes '00, Hilda L. Gutierrez '00, Maciej Stachowiak '97, Gregory Golberg '96, Burdette Wendt '99.