The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 28.0°F | Overcast

Annual Big Screw Contest Begins with Chorover at Head of Field

By Dan McGuire
Editor in Chief

The annual Big Screw contest began Monday, giving students the chance . "The Institute Screw Contest was started to raise money for charity," said Oscar Rodriguez, the president of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity. The prize, a three-foot long left-handed aluminum screw, is an "award for the professor deemed to be deserving of a big screw."

APO will solicit donations in the lobby of Building 10 all week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Stephan L. Chorover, who sponsored a sense of the faculty resolution proposing that the Institute house all freshmen on campus in 1998, is leading the first day's tallies with $12.39. He has a slim lead over Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams, who has raised $10.71 and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Nigel H. M. Wilson SM '70, who teaches 1.00 and who has accumulated $10.31. Michael Bergren, a staff associate with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program office, is trailing with $3.17.

This year's competitors were picked by members of APO. "We listen to the moans and groans of the Institute" and pick some initial names, Rodriguez said. APO then contacts the prospective candidates and checks if they would like to be nominated. "No one's name goes up without their permission," he said.

Sometimes getting professors to run can be a challenge. Members of APO have to convince nominees that "getting the Institute Screw isn't a bad thing," Rodriguez said. "Our goal [with the Institute Screw] is not to tell a professor he's a bad professor, but to raise money for charity," he said.

Occasionally, students will decide to contribute another name to the pool of competitors. "If a write-in candidate gets more than $10 we go and ask them whether they want to run," Rodriguez said.

Screw has storied history

"We used to collect enough to get one tuition" when tuition was $5000 to $6000 a year, said Rodriguez. Tuition, however, has risen and contributions have dropped. Last year's contest raised $324.24 for charities. "This year we've tried to a little bit more publicity to get people to donate to charity," Rodriguez said.

Big events have sometimes helped APO raise a great deal of money through the event. In 1989, dramatic changes to the campus computer system netted APO more than $10,000, said David C. Cho '92, a member of APO, as students used the Big Screw event to express their feelings about the new system. "They had just gone from time sharing to workstations. They thought it would break in a big way and it did."

The competition was good-humored and many students participated. "People were going to the ATM machines and" draining their accounts, he said.

"There was a hack associated with this," said Lan-Chun Chang, a member of APO. Hackers placed a replica of the big screw on the great tome. "People thought that the Institute deserved a screw more than one person," he said.

This year's winner will inherit the screw from Assistant Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Neal H. Dorow, who serves as the adviser to fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups.

The contest began in 1967, when APO replaced its Spring Carnival Queen Contest with one awarding a four-foot long, left-handed wood screw to the most deserving faculty member. In 1975, the wooden screw was replaced by the aluminum one used today.