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When All Is Done, The Tech Still Reports

Column by Dan McGuire
News Editor

The last column I wrote was on cream cheese. This one is a little different because circumstances are different. At that time, not a whole heck of a lot was happening on page 4. This time, not only are things happening on page 4, they're also happening on pages 5, 6, 7, and 9.

I'm not going to debate the ethics of publishing the column by Stacey E. Blau '98 ["Hypocritical Fraternities Embarrass MIT," Feb. 25] or the investigative framework driving it. My own views are pretty boring, and other minds are carrying that fight forward anyway.

What I find absolutely fascinating, as a news person and amateur philosopher, is the level of responses that we've gotten to this column. There are more than a few Tech alumni still looking over our shoulders, and they say that this is probably the biggest response we've gotten to anything in recent history.

Now why the big response? We've written pretty scathing editorials in the past. As a paper, we've criticized the Undergraduate Association (the ber-government of all undergrads) for claiming a clean office as one of its accomplishments this term. We slammed the housing and residential life re-engineering team (examining student housing) for spending months producing a report that doesn't tell us anything new and probably sets us back some.

Yet one column, and the campus explodes. The column elicited funny, thoughtful, and vituperative letters that obviously took some time from folks that usually pick up The Tech in Lobby 7, skim its headlines for 10 feet, and then throw it away.

Is it shoddy journalism that's provoking this? Probably not. We've written and published worse, but generally it's on something boring. Here, the column kicked the Interfraternity Council and the good portion of The Tech's readership who live in fraternities in the family jewels by criticizing an organization that has a lot of fans.

Why no responses on the UA editorial? Unfortunately, that organization doesn't have a lot of defenders, and those it does have we've steadily beat into submission. The HARL team is downright incomprehensible so nobody gives a damn when we slam it. But here I feel like a well-financed David taking on the Goliath of a vocal, dedicated, and fairly large minority of the student population.

This doesn't bug me. What bugs me is that we seem to have ticked Goliath off for no particular reason. Putting aside the ethical considerations, as I am wont to do, citing a laundry list of problems at fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups and then concluding with "If they can't clean up their own act, then MIT should do it for them," does very little to change the system besides making our readership distrust The Tech and make my job as a news editor soliciting comments from FSILG folks more difficult. Restoring my ethical considerations, I'm not entirely sure that it's right journalistically to make such claims without additional substantiation, even in a column.

However, I think that some of what Blau said has some validity. Residence and Orientation Week needs to be re-examined; we need to look at what the lack of Clearinghouse did to rush, good and bad. Hazing, if it does exist, needs to be investigated and reported on. Alcohol is an issue, not only in FSILGs but also in dormitories. Expect more from us on each of these with information and quotes to back them up.

Let me conclude with this thought as a news writer, with a nod to Walt Whitman. We serve a small campus and, as a result, we need to be careful about our readership. On the other hand, this is not an excuse to pussyfoot around the important issues. If something bad happens in a fraternity, a sorority, or a dorm, you can depend on us to report it. To do any less would be a disservice.