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Students Protest Tuition Hike During Traditional Annual Riot

By Jennifer Chung

A rowdy bunch of approximately 30 students turned out last Wednesday afternoon to participate in the “Nth Annual Spontaneous Tuition Riot.”

Earlier this week, MIT announced a 3.6 percent increase in tuition and total costs for the 1999-2000 academic year.

With much ballyhoo, the group set forth from a rendezvous point in front of the Great Sail sculpture located in front of Building 54. Armed with trumpets, trombones, and a megaphone, the group headed down the Infinite Corridor towards 77 Massachusetts Ave. Their march also included a stop by the office of President Charles M. Vest on the second floor of Building 7.

Shouting slogans including “$25,000 is too damn much!” and sporting signs reading “$25,000 and still 1-ply toilet paper”, “We have nothing to lose but our CHAINS!”, “Down with Evil Capitalist Oppression!”, and “Die Bourgeoisie Scum”, the group attracted much attention from unwitting bystanders.

“God bless America!” said one passerby as the riot made its way upstairs. Other students, caught up in the excitement, joined the fray.

“We’re rioting; we don’t have time for quotes, can’t you tell?” said one student, as this reporter attempted to garner student opinion. Onlookers were much more verbose.

“It looks like a lot of fun,” said Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates, who joined a crowd of several other administrators stepping momentarily away from their desks to observe the goings-on directly in front of the president’s office.

“It’s a really cool riot,” remarked another bystander.

Admins react to rowdy complaints

After passing Lobby 10, the protesters marched up the adjacent stairwell and gathered around the entrance to President Vest’s office. However, much to the dismay of the students gathered in the hallway, Vest’s secretary came out and informed the crew that Vest was in Washington D.C. for the day.

In his stead, Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72 bravely stepped forward to address the group.

Bacow admitted to having participated in a number of tuition riots in his years as an undergraduate, but that this was “the first in which I have been the object,” he said, noting that students at his first annual spontaneous tuition riot thought that “$2,150 [was] too damned much.”

Ingbert R. Schmidt ’01 who brought his trumpet to the festivities responded to Bacow, “I could afford lessons if tuition were less.”

Bacow then moved onto a more serious note, pointing out several uplifting changes in this year’s financial aid plan, including a 12 percent increase in Institute scholarships and grants.

“Bacow’s response wasn’t true,” said protester Brian T. Sniffen ’00 later, adding that one of Bacow’s major points only applied to “a couple hundred students, tops.”

“It’s nice to see that the tuition riot’s back; there were a few years in which it wasn’t,” Bacow said.

Bacow ended by apologizing that President Vest was actually in Washington at the moment.

Not to be deterred, the group decided to keep going. “Come riot in Lobby 7!” one protester shouted.

After marching downstairs and through Lobby 7, the group collected on the steps of 77 Massachusetts Ave. Protesters enjoined passersby to come join them.

After a slight pause at the steps, the rioters, chanting “No way; we won’t pay!”, made their way to Stratton Student Center.

The protesters marched up the stairs in the interior of the building to the Coffeehouse. Afterwards they visited Lobdell and also made a tour of the fourth floor of the Student Center where various student group activities have space.

Riot revived last year

The annual tuition riot was revived last year following a two year lull in activity. While pamphlets were sent out advertising last year’s riot, this year’s riot was advertised largely through e-mails.