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Students Protest Administration at ‘Tool In’

By Karen E. Robinson

Approximately 75 students sat outside President Charles M. Vest’s office, textbooks and calculators in hand, in an attempt to display student discontent with the MIT administration. Yesterday’s “Tool-In” was an opportunity for harried MIT students to voice their disgust with recent administrative decisions.

“My fantasy is that it’ll put a different spin on the state of student dissatisfaction,” said Tool-In Organizer Jeremy Brown G.

One student said he hoped the protest would result in the administration taking students seriously and not having an attitude akin to saying “it’s really cute you disagree with me.”

Minutes before the protest, Vest pointed out to students that there have been many open meetings about various issues and “a year of very active debate” surrounding alcohol policies. Vest said he was “sorry that people feel we have not been listening,” but added, “in my view we have actually rather dramatically increased our outreach to students on issues.”

Seventy-five toolers turn out for event

At its peak, there were 75 students sitting along the hallway in the second floor of the Infinite Corridor. Brown was pleased with turnout, but said he hoped to get more people involved in protests in future semesters.

Undergraduate Association President Paul T. Oppold ’99 said turnout was “amazing,” in light of student workload and the fact that Campus Preview Weekend which began Thursday keeps hundreds of prefrosh hosts busy. At least two prefrosh were present at the Tool-In, however, listening with interest to students’ analyses of the Institute.

Graduate Student Council President Brian J. Schneider G said that, while GSC members are concerned about issues of graduate student housing as well as Institute alcohol policy, they have overall found administrators to be relatively ready to work with them.

I Love This ... Place

The tool-in was organized by ILTFP (a play on the long-standing “I Hate This F---ing Place”) The group’s founding members decided last semester that they love MIT too much to sit aside and “discover that what I came here for is being yanked out from under me,” said ILTFP member Carolyn D. Jones ’00. Jones has been “too hosed to really be involved” but was tooling away at the tool-in and intermittently passing out orange ribbons.

Members of ILTFP first passed out orange ribbons late last semester, to provide a “no-time-commitment way” of explaining or demonstrating dissatisfaction with current policy changes, according to Jones. The ribbon campaign last semester was ILTFP’s first project.

Toolers wary of MIT’s paternalism

A primary concern of many toolers was not any single action by the administration, but an overall “tendency to insist that the university needs to take on the role of a parent,” Brown said.

“You come to college to learn and make mistakes; if college is like high school you don’t learn anything,” said Dianne E. Egnor G.

Egnor was a resident of pika her freshman year and appreciated being able and allowed to take care of the house and house affairs as a student.

“A range of people come to MIT as freshmen. [The Institute should] allow for those responsible students to take responsibility,” said J. Scott Willcox G.

Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72 agreed that often “a few students act irresponsibly, and it hurts everyone.”

Associate Dean for Residence Life and Student Life Programs Andrew M. Eisenmann ’70 and Bacow joined toolers for nearly an hour, and a few students explained their concerns to Bacow.

“All policy choice involves compromise,” Bacow said at one point. He also stressed the difference between a policy and a promise, as he may not have the actual authority to promise something he makes his policy.

“There are lots of competing demands” on MIT resources, Bacow said. “Circumstances can change.”

“The outside world lumps everyone together,” Bacow said. “We can’t change that, that’s reality.”

Bacow mildly refuted one senior’s claim that the Institute changes “according to media coverage and legal standing.” Bacow said that as long as ten years ago he had said that “MIT would be a better place if freshmen were housed on campus.” He called this an issue on which “reasonable people can differ.”

“Let’s work together,” Bacow said in attempting to close the conversation, but people had more to say, and more questions.

Brown described how he sees student-administration interaction: “We have a committee. We discuss stuff. They do what they were going to do anyway.”

Bacow promised that talks would continue, however, beginning with an open meeting with GSC members on Thursday.