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Vest Welcomes Class of 2003 To MIT at Hacked Convocation

By Frank Dabek

The Class of 2003 received its formal introduction to the Institute today at the President’s convocation in Kresge Auditorium.

President Charles M. Vest delivered his traditional welcome address to the new class. Vest’s address was followed by remarks from Professor Claude R. Canizares on astrophysics and the search for life on other planets. Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy Samuel J. Keyser, gave a presentation on History and Hacking at MIT which was preceded itself by a hack in which upperclassmen encouraged freshmen to sing the “Engineers’ Drinking Song.”

Vest welcomes freshmen

President Vest delivered his traditional charge to freshmen, welcoming them to the Institute and their place as “the stars of the new millennium.”

The opening of Vest’s speech built on a hollywood theme following his introduction by Orientation Committee members Julie D. Gesch ’00 and Damien A. Brosnan ’01 as the winner of the “best president of a corporation” award.

Vest presented his annual assurance that freshmen had not been admitted to MIT by mistake but rather “because you believe in excellence.”

He encouraged the new class to become “leaders in a world that is changing rapidly, that is increasingly complex, always challenging and fascinating, and often beautiful” and presented the work of MIT researchers such as Professor of Chemistry Stephen J. Lippard and Biology Professor Robert A. Weinberg ’64 in the field of cancer research as examples of scientific leadership.

Vest also told freshmen, one third of whom graduated at the top of their high school class, that they could “rest assured from all of us that you can succeed at MIT” without being at the top of their class at the Institute.

The president closed his remarks by informing the freshmen of MIT’s unique position as “the global standard” for research universities and encouraging them to develop the qualities of integrity and service in their academic careers.

Canizares discusses origins of life

Vest introduced Canizeres as a graduate of Harvard -- “a youthful indiscretion for which we long ago forgave him” -- with a career distinguished “even by MIT standards.” Canizares, Director of the Center For Space Research and associate director of the Chandra X-ray observatory center, has space as a “second home,” according to Vest.

Canizares’ lecture took freshmen on a “journey from Earth to the edge of the visible universe... you have to think big at MIT.”

Discussing the relationships of living organisms on Earth he told the class of 2003: “our nearest neighbors, in case you are feeling special today include fungi and slime mold.”

The tour continued to possible fossilized life in Martian rocks, in a sea on Jupiter’s moon Europa. He demonstrated the formation of stars and galaxies and the discovery of planets around stars other than our sun.

“With people like you... we’re going to make huge leaps forward,” towards answering the question of the orgins of life he told the assembled class.

McGann addresses housing debate

Undergraduate Association President Matthew L. McGann ’00 also addressed the new class and referenced MIT’s ongoing residence debate and Vest’s decision to house all freshmen on campus in 2001 in his remarks.

McGann said that at MIT “you are going to be treated like an adult,” unlike other universities such as Harvard. “I like the fact that MIT respects us enough to let us go out and pick some place to live; pick people to live with; ... choose a home and not just a dormitory.”

McGann also noted that MIT gives students the opportunity to “pick a username like abbeyrd or alien or can go ahead and pick something dumb” as an example of the freedom MIT gives its students, he said.

“MIT has no peer institutions,” McGann concluded. “Nowhere else has what we have.”

‘Hack’ interrupts program

Following McGann’s remarks a black clad individual took to the podium and informed freshmen of a “very important omission” in HowToGamit.

“They left out MIT’s alternative Alma Mater, ‘The Engineer’s Drinking Song’.”

A group of students assembled on the stage and sang several verses of the song with some freshmen in the audience joining in.

Following the performance, McGann introduced Keyser who deemed that the interruption “really wasn’t a hack” since “real hacks are always anonymous.”

Vest said that the hack attempt “didn’t show a lot of creativity.”

Brosnan said that the performance was “a big surprise to us. I thought it was funny.”

Keyser’s presentation included a definition of hacking and slides of hacks throughout MIT’s history.

“Hacking makes MIT less formidable and more manageable,” Keyser said.

Other speakers at the convocation included Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams who informed the freshmen about assistance available from the dean’s office and encouraged them to explore Boston and New England. The “city around you is another University,” Williams said.

Margaret R. Bates, dean for students, gave a presentation on academic regalia, MIT’s crest and class rings to close the event.