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MIT’s Willing Accomplices

Joel M. Rosenberg

At the Democracy Teach-Ins, Mike Albert ’69 told how he first became politicized. He learned after being initiated to Alpha Epsilon Pi that they wiretapped the phones during rush to get better info on the freshmen, and that he had been the “victim” of such practices. At the time he learned of this he had invested too much to care about this violation of his rights. It wasn’t until his sophomore rush that the magnitude of the transgression sank in, and he then proceeded to wait outside AEPi warning entering freshmen about the house’s shady practices. Half the house wanted to kill him, and the other half wanted to not only let him live but keep him in the house. One point of this story is how indoctrination can make you accepting of just about anything. Another point is how once you become a maverick, the powers that be either want to appease you or eliminate you. But one of the most interesting points for MIT is how incredibly dirty rush is.

This past weekend was Campus Preview Weekend. It used to be Women and Minorities Weekend, but MIT now has decided to put on the pony show for all prospective students. All last week I heard complaints from friends in houses about the cleaning and preparation they had to do for CPW, since it’s essentially spring rush. I heard a rumor that professors had been told to ease up on work for the week. And when The Tech wouldn’t allow the Interfraternity Council to publish propaganda as a news article, the IFC took out a full-page news-style advertisement, telling how “parties are returning to the way things used to be,” citing three “recent successful events,” one of which was the Alpha Phi invite-only, ego-feeding Crush Party -- a real community builder.

Corresponding to the start of CPW, the ILTFP (I Love This F---ing Place) campaign organized a “Tool-In” last Thursday, at which 75 people showed up to multitask homework and protest by tooling outside President Charles M. Vest’s office. Vest had the audacity to claim “in my view we have actually rather dramatically increased our outreach to students on issues,” citing many open meetings and “a year of very active debate” about alcohol policies. The Tool-In showed students are so pressed for time they have to do work even while protesting. The orange ribbon campaign itself is a “no-time-commitment way” of demonstrating.

On Friday, to check out the current state of partying, I went over to Delta Tau Delta, and indeed it seemed like an incredible replica of parties of yesteryear. Upon entering my glasses fogged up; the dance floor was packed; the stairs were streaming with people; everybody seemed to be having fun -- good clean fun. I ran into a friend and asked him what he thought of the party. Like myself, he missed the not-so-clean fun, and cut the conversation short to go keep tabs on his prefrosh, since after all, my friend wasn’t from Delts, and this was enemy rush territory. My friend wasn’t enjoying the party, and neither was I. So who was this party for?

MIT places a large burden on the houses by expanding prefrosh weekend to include guys. The houses treat the weekend like spring rush and compete trying to impress prefrosh. The impression is false, the same way that rush impressions are generally superficial, but only worse now because there’s no substance behind the faÇade. And soon MIT won’t even be able to use the houses in this exploitative way because there will be no incentive for houses to woo prefrosh to campus if they’ll have a whole year to woo freshmen to their houses. If the administration continues ignoring the wants of students while patronizingly saying “you should’ve come to that meeting,” how many people are going to keep lying about how great this place is? Why would you encourage someone to waste their college experience here?

At the Tool-In Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72 refuted the claim that the Institute changes “according to media coverage and legal standing,” but also said, “The outside world lumps everyone together. We can’t change that, that’s reality.” The question is, why should we give a shit about the outside world? What do they know about how different all of MIT’s living groups are, dorms included? What do they know of the workload we endure? Why has MIT done almost nothing outside of the Infinite Buffet to build community, instead choosing to inject the competitive nature of rush to pre-frosh weekend?

Ask yourself how many of next year’s freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will know the freedom with responsibility that used to be given to undergraduates here. Ask yourself whether this place is so perfect that it needs no improvement. Ask yourself how you would feel if you left here last weekend convinced to come here based on what you were shown.

Bacow said, “Circumstances can change.” It’s time to change the circumstances.