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Debating The Naked Emperor

Guest Column
Dan Geer

You don’t get to be the Naked Emperor unless you can raise money; keeping those non-profit profits rolling in is most of what it is about. If you are brought in from the outside, it’s the only thing. Even an outsider Naked Emperor knows that the alumni and alumnae are where the money is -- why else get BankBoston to flaunt that “...students had started 4000 companies by 1994, generating 1.1 million jobs and $232 billion in sales”? But, in an interview with this paper, our Naked Emperor said “there has not been the same level of tradition and expectation of giving back that’s become inculcated in people from the Ivy League universities.” Well, pardon me.

For about a decade now, our Naked Emperor has blamed our lack of socio-financial refinement on one thing -- that we alumni and alumnae have demonstrably deeper attachment to our living groups than to his fundraising office. Hence, in nearly-genuine MIT engineering style, the problem statement becomes: Make sure tomorrow’s alumni and alumnae have nothing to have allegiance to except the Pater Familias. The living groups are now the enemy in proportion to their ability to take care of themselves, the enemy in proportion to the degree with which their members bond without need for our Naked Emperor. Democratically, this is as true of East Campus as it is of any house on Bay State Road.

How else can you explain that on the one hand, our Naked Emperor tells The Boston Globe that the freshmen dorm is a pure if sad response to Mr. Krueger’s death while he tells the Alumni and Alumnae IFC that the freshmen dorm has nothing to do with Mr. Krueger, a mantra his messengers repeat with relentless regularity. A word to the wise: “Tell ’em what they want to hear” only works when there is no one taking notes. At MIT, we always take notes.

Our Naked Emperor must figure that the graduate students are lame and easy marks since flogging the freshmen is at their expense, housing-wise. Yeah, this can be spin doctored, but unless our Naked Emperor plans to spend his way out of a problem of his creation, the grad students lose. Again.

Our Naked Emperor’s decision is a lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose decision: it makes things worse for freshmen, freshwomen, dormitories, fraternities, upperclassmen everywhere, and super worse for graduate students. No group of students is advantaged. This is eating your seed corn and your small children both.

It is rightly said that all that is required for evil to triumph is for men of good will to do nothing. I am an alumnus of both MIT and what our Naked Emperor calls “the old red brick institution up the street.” For five years, I ran the systems development that produced Athena. Companies I’ve started figure in that 1994 report on what we alumni and alumnae do, and I am proud of it. I’ve been active as an alumnus longer than our Naked Emperor has been here and I will be here when he is gone. I speak for many, many, many loyal alums from dormitories and FSILGs alike when I say that our Naked Emperor is in the weeds, that if our Naked Emperor thinks that making more people like me and us is a bad idea, he should transfer to Antioch.

Therefore, I challenge you, Charles M. Vest, to debate; Buckley-Lerner rules, any time, any place so long as a reasonable probability exists for 1000 students to attend since, after all, the policy in question is ostensibly solely for their benefit and they are, hence, the only interested parties. To that extent, you and I are but mere proxies.

A failure on your part to accept will be taken, and not just by me, as your stipulation to the correctness of my analysis and to your arrogant disinterest in the opinions of those you would control. It will be straight from the standard playbook for frontrunners in a cynical age. If the Corporation is listening, this is not the way to get at my wallet.

Dan Geer is a member of the Class of 1972.