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Mens et Women:

2002 Brass Rat Features Woman on Ring

By Aaron D. Mihalik

Associate Features Editor

For the men, and especially women, of the class of 2002 the newest incarnation of MIT’s Brass Rat came with some interesting changes to tradition: for the first time in history a woman is pictured as part of the mens et manus design.

While the crowd of roughly 700 students who attended the ring premiere was mostly pleased with the new design, some students were upset with significant aspects of the design.

The most significant difference of this year’s ring from previous years’ rings is the change in the panel of the ring which displays two figures which epitomize MIT’s motto: mens et manus. This year’s ring is the first ever to have a female in the design (she portrays mens).

The design is the result of a nine month process by the 10 member Class of 2002 Ring Committee.

Sophomores will receive their Brass Rats on the delivery cruise on May 6. Due to a larger marketing budget, most sophomores will be paying a slightly higher price for their ring.

Student divided over new design

“There are a lot of different things about the ring,” said Sanjay K. Rao ’02, president of the Class of 2002 and a member of the ring committee. “Such as the woman being on the MIT shank. The concept had been tossed around in previous ring committees. It was a bit of a controversy.”

“Our class has one of the better ratios in terms of women’s representation at MIT,” said Sonia Garg ’02, a member of the Ring Committee.

The comments from the students on the gender change were dived based on gender lines. Most females agreed that the change to the seal an improvement while males were disappointed at the change in the traditional symbol.

“It’s excellent that they put a woman on the shank,” said Sarah A. Farrar ’02. “It’s great for our class and it’s definitely time”

“I don’t think that the original symbol was chosen because there were only men at MIT,” said a male class of 2002 student. “They changed the tradition.”

The people portrayed in the mens et manus seal are traditionally a laborer with a hammer and a scholar holding a book. In the new design, the laborer (a male) is holding a picket sign and the female scholar is holding a laptop.

The book was replaced to signify that today “where we go for most of our information is not a book anymore, it’s a computer,” said Garg.

Again, students were divided on these changes. “[The picketer] is really distinctive of our class,” said one student. The housing choice controversy is “definitely a highlight of our time here.”

“The picket thing is ridiculous,” commented another student. “It’s only a small portion of our class” that was involved in activism. “They tried to go out on the limb and make something more edgy ... but I don’t think that they did a good job.”

The other significant change was to the class shank. “It’s usually only building 7, but this year we were able to fit in all three buildings [7, 10 and 54],” said Rao. But “at the same time, we still combined some of the traditional aspects of the Brass Rat. It was a mix of a few new things and a few of the traditional aspects.”

Some students were impressed with the changes in the design, while others less than enthusiastic.

“It doesn’t look as traditional as other rings and that is definitely good,” said Caroline C. Cutting ’02. “It makes our class stand out.”

“The brass rat could have been unadorned and most people would have the same kind of emotional attachment to it,” said Nelson D. Lai ’02. “The additional junk on it is shitty.”

The difference on opinion of the ring design is to be expected. “Anytime you get people with different perspectives and from different parts of campus together, there is going to be a lot of arguing,” said Raymond Morales ’02, a member of the Ring Committee. Overall, the new design “demonstrates the personality of our class and it combines everything of our experience here.”

Premier, delivery are extravagant events

Minutes before the doors opened for the Ring premier in Walker Memorial, the crowd of students stretched along Memorial drive.

“So many people showed up right at 5 o’clock, it was insane,” said Garg. “It was a mad rush for the doors. It’s really cool when the whole class comes together like this.”

“I’m really impressed with our class,” said Rao. “I’m amazed at the number of people that showed up. [The premier] was a very special time for our class.”

Students were very impressed with the ring premier ceremony. “It was set up the best way,” noted one student. “It was direct and quick. It was what we wanted.”

“During the presentation you heard people laughing and people where having a really good time,” said Faisal Reza ’02, chair of the Ring Committee. “We also had a really good time presenting this design.”

“The committee itself has to be credited for a lot of the success of the premier,” said Reza. “No one realizes how much work the committee members put into it. It really did pay off.”

The ring delivery plans to be an extravagant occasion, as well. As plans stand now, there will be an afternoon lunch in Killian Court for the Class of 2002. After the lunch, busses will transport students to the dock for the delivery cruise. But several aspects of this plan are yet to be finalized.

“The reception in Killian court is in transit,” said Reza. “You really can’t reserve Killian Court.”

Reza, however, remains optimistic. “We’re probably going to get it,” he said. “We’re going to have a nice reception in Killian ... and then there will be busses that pick you up and take you straight to the cruise. The cruise is where you actually get your brass rat. The reception will be a nice summer lunch and there will be desert on the boat. There will be music and dancing and food.”

Design process

The design process for the new ring began last year. The Committee went through nine months of deliberation and redesigning before the ring was unveiled.

“It’s no small matter to start from scratch and design a brass rat that will be worn by 1,000 of your classmates,” said Reza.

In May of 1999 the committee was formed by an application process handled by the Class of 2002 Council.

“It was a solid group of applicants,” said Rao. “In the end, we got a really great group of students. The group this year worked really well together.”

In the fall, the committee solicited proposals and bids from various ring companies. The committee worked with each company in a series of design sessions. Soon after, each company presented their best proposals and artwork to the committee. By October, the committee had decided on a company that would be able to implement their ideas.

“There are a whole series of companies that bid on the MIT account because it is so prestigious,” said Reza. “Art Carved gave us the best proposal and they were very flexible about the design.”

“Believe it or not, the hardiest part for these companies is to draw a beaver,” said Reza. “When you draw a real beaver, it doesn’t look like much. That was probably one of our biggest factors when deciding on a company -- how is this beaver going to look. It’s the most prominent part of the ring so we really want it to turn out nicely.”

Price increase due to extravagant delivery

Students can expect an average increase of $20 on their Brass Rat compared to previous years.

“Typically, each year, the price of the brass rat increases,” said Reza. “We also have a huge marketing budget, that we haven’t had in the past. The marketing budget provides for a great premier and great delivery.”

“Last year they had a smaller marketing budget and they did less,” said Reza. “They didn’t have an extravagant premier and they didn’t plan on having a great delivery, like we are planning.”

Although the price has increased, the Brass Rat remains inexpensive when compared to other university rings. “We have probably the best prices on a college campus,” said Reza. “When a ring is sold through a university bookstore there is a lot of overhead.”