Spray Paint and Shame
On Friday morning, the hundreds of pedestrians and bicyclists who cross the Harvard bridge saw the bridge vandalized with blue, green, and purple graffiti. Some time between Thursday evening and early Friday morning, someone used the Harvard bridge as a platform to spout obscene, homophobic rhetoric. We believe that this action is outrageous and intolerable, and that the appropriate party involved should be punished.
Derogatory graffiti such as this could reasonably be called a hate crime. The Institute should continue to make it clear to people that those who brazenly hurt others in this manner will be punished severely. This incident defies all common sense and all conventions of proper, civilized behavior. It should go without saying that, in accordance with today's social climate, people should demonstrate reasonable tolerance. Those who act on their homophobia are living in the past.
It is regrettable that such an embarrassing incident occurred in such a public place. The Harvard bridge is crossed by hundreds of people a day, and, after staring at the statements on the sidewalk, every single one of them is going to wonder about the type of institution that could produce people who would stoop to this level.
What makes it doubly embarrassing is that this incident involved the defacing of a MIT landmark. Every person at MIT, and many people elsewhere, have heard the story of the Smoots. That the responsible party chose to vandalize such a visible symbol of MIT in the name of hate adds even more shame.
This incident has subtle echoes of the Tau Epsilon Phi graffiti of the Harvard bridge occurred in the fall of 1993. The Smoots were covered with graffiti, such as smiley-faces. A few members of Lambda Chi Alpha inappropriately retaliated by defacing TEPwith anti-homosexual graffiti. This most recent defacing suggests that the problem has not gone away.
Unfortunately, the Institute has taken no actions to inform the MIT community of the incident. While most people do not need to hear a lecture about tolerance, the fact that such things are happening, and happening in such a visible way, requires a response of one kind or another. Tolerance training during R/O has been suggested as one possible tactic, and that is worth examining. But nothing can substitute for a general atmosphere of acceptance, and that is something only students can create.
In the interim, we hope that the Interfraternity Council's Judicial Committee will manage to track down those responsible. The punishment should be counseling, particularly on tolerance, an apology, and community service to compensate for the thousands of people offended by the vandalization. MIT cannot afford to let such puerile behavior continue.