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There's a Reason Why It's Called the Opinion Page


Thomas R. Karlo

By Thomas R. Karlo
Executive Editor

If you're expecting a sequel to the column by Stacey E. Blau '98 on the fraternity system ["Hypocritical Fraternities Embarrass MIT," Feb. 25], I'm sorry to disappoint you. As a columnist, though, there's little fun in yelling fire' when everybody's already screaming and running for the exit, so I'll leave it to others to fan the flames. Nor do I think much productive discussion is going to happen on the topic until everyone returns to their seats and calms down. In the meantime, there's a few things I've been hearing through the general shouting that I'd like to address.

The reactions to Blau's column have been both positive and negative. Among those critical of her column, I've heard two common sentiments that I find both a bit mystifying, and a little daunting: "How can The Tech be so anti-fraternity?" and "How can The Tech let her write this?"

Regardless of how I feel about the opinions Blau expressed, I do know that I'd sure prefer to err on the side of letting someone express their opinion. Would you really prefer a newspaper that only printed opinions that nobody was going to object to? In the real world, differences of opinion are what produce thought, examination, and positive progress. At MIT, it should be no different.

For The Tech to censor a regular columnist's piece simply because we thought it might elicit a strong reaction from a section of the community would not only be a mistake; it would mean we had failed the MIT community. Columnists are meant to stimulate discussion and thought with their pieces. If nothing else, Blau's column has certainly achieved this, considering the reaction and discussion it has caused among the normally apathetic undergraduate population.

Was the topic Blau chose to bring in front of the MIT community relevant and worthy of consideration? Definitely. It would be difficult to argue that the issue of whether MIT should rely on the fraternity system for housing is not worthy of community examination, especially considering that other universities have chosen in recent years to remove fraternity life from their campuses. Even the most ardent supporters of Greek life should understand that discussing such issues is sometimes necessary.

Another subject has been the accusation, directed toward The Tech, that we're all "anti-fraternity." People want to propose that because one staff member of the newspaper voices a particular opinion, we all suddenly share it. Or perhaps that the entire staff of The Tech (including those of us who are fraternity or sorority members) conspires to make fraternities look bad. If you believe that, you've probably watched too many Oliver Stone movies. The Tech staff is a diverse group of independently minded students, like the community we serve.

The Interfraternity Council should be careful before encouraging its members to become even more suspicious and uncooperative when dealing with reporters and editors from The Tech. As a minority component of the community, the Greek community will not be well served by withdrawing as a voice within MIT. Fraternities and sororities are already some of the most secretive, and difficult to cover, organizations on campus. Tech reporters do their best to afford this community the attention it deserves but increasing the difficulty of communicating with the Greek community will not make their job easier.

In general, it seems that a lot of folks can't accept the idea that more than one opinion on a particular topic might exist in our office, or that we might be willing to let someone express their own opinions freely. I take pride as an editor of The Tech that we publish not just opinions that I agree with, but those I dislike as well. To only print those columns that fit with our personal view of the world would make us a lesser publication.