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MIT Suspends Student For Sending Hate Mail

COD Recommends Three Term Suspension

By Mike Hall


The Committee on Discipline has recommended a three-term suspension for an MIT sophomore who sent electronic hate mail to a gay student.

Burns Schilling ’02 was found responsible for sending a threatening e-mail to Kevin Q. Choi ’01 on Feb. 23, according to Choi. The obscenity-laced message made reference to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student.

“You are a faggot. I hate faggots. I wish they would string all of you up on barb wire fences in Wyoming,” Schilling wrote in the message.

Schilling, who refused to comment on the hearing and his pending suspension, did not attend the May 11 hearing on the advice of his attorney, Choi said. Only MIT community members are permitted to attend hearings under COD regulations.

Schilling’s fate now rests with President Charles M. Vest, who determines the severity of the final punishment. Professor Stephen C. Graves, chairman of COD since 1997, said that Vest has approved without modification all but one of COD’s recommendations during his tenure.

If Vest upholds the COD’s recommendation, Schilling can then request that the president reconsider his decision. If the reconsideration is denied, Schilling will be forbidden from Institute property, his Athena account will be revoked, and he will receive a disciplinary notation on his official transcript.

According to Choi, the hate mail came after a series of unrelated e-mails sent by Choi to the Microeconomics (14.02) and Linear Algebra (18.06) mailing lists requesting partners for a study group. Following his e-mails, Choi noticed a concentration of accesses on his personal Web site from computers in Alpha Tau Omega, Schilling’s fraternity. Choi sent an e-mail of inquiry to Schilling, whose computer registered the greatest number of hits. Schilling then responded with the threatening letter.

In addition to his fraternity membership, Schilling was involved with hockey during his freshman year and planned to return to the team next season. Mark P. O’Meara, head coach of the MIT men’s hockey team, was surprised to hear about COD’s recommendation.

“I can’t see this happening [to Schilling],” O’Meara said. “It seemed like everything was fine with him ... he was a hell of a hockey player and a regular MIT guy.” O’Meara added that Schilling was liked by his teammates for his personality and his tough defensive play.

Community rallies to Choi’s side

Following the incident, Choi received over sixty messages of support and prayers for healing from members of local gay communities. In an interview, Choi expressed his appreciation for the support and shared his feelings of fear and anger after receiving the hate mail.

Choi has also taken his message against hate to the Web, stating in his online journal that “there is never an excuse to send a hateful message to another person. Never.”

Other members of the gay community also were unsympathetic on Schilling’s plight after the recommendation. When asked about a possible remedy to heal the community, GAMIT support coordinator Laura G. Dean G said, “There’s not much that can make me feel better about people having that sort of attitude.”

MIT students have been the victims of hate e-mail in the past. In 1998, a California man sent e-mail death threats to 25 Hispanic students, as well as over 45 other Hispanic people nationwide. Related Stories:

MIT Homosexual Target of Hate Mail
Friday, March 3, 2000