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EC Protest Displays Fissures Over Rush

By Sandra M. Chung


Tempers flared after members of East Campus and Senior House protested a scheduled Orientation event on Sunday, and the dormitory’s presence at that day’s residence midway was briefly imperiled.

The clashes have revealed deep fissures between students and the MIT administrators responsible for Orientation, who say they feel betrayed by the unraveling of agreements with student leaders.

The students, meanwhile, expressed frustration with an administration they perceive as trying to eviscerate rush.

Senior House President Daniel E. McAnulty ’04 said that Assistant Dean of New Student Programs Elizabeth C. Young became upset after he and other protesters handed out flyers at Sunday’s PlayFair asking freshmen, “[A]re you a fucking baby? [T]hen what the hell are you doing at a playfair?”

According to McAnulty, Young then threatened to revoke East Campus’ space at the Residence Midway. McAnulty described the incident in a widely-circulated e-mail sent to various dormitory mailing lists Monday morning.

Young declined to comment.

Protest prompts meeting

East Campus’ residence midway space was not revoked, after an emergency meeting immediately after the PlayFair and before the Residence Midway Sunday night.

The meeting included midway coordinators Sherri E. Davidoff ’03, Grace R. Kessenich ’03, and Tyler J. Bronder ’03 as well as Associate Dean for Student Life Barbara A. Baker, Residential Life Associate Anthony E. Gray PhD ’01, and Assistant Dean of Residential Programs Katherine G. O’Dair.

Baker said she and the other administrators used the meeting to express their feeling of betrayal because, in their view, an agreement reached with student leaders in the Residential System Implementation Team had unraveled.

In an open letter to freshmen, published in The Tech Sunday, Dormcon wrote that it “will not limit the times at which dorms can hold events -- even if they conflict with other scheduled Orientation sessions.”

“I was very disappointed that some of the agreements that had been reached in the RSIT team process, as I understood them, were not honored,” Baker said.

But Kessenich, who was a member of the RSIT, registered displeasure with the way Rush has unfolded this year. The protests weren’t “a personal attack against any people,” she said. “It’s about the way Orientation was scheduled. Since the beginning we kept saying, ‘We need more time for dorm events,’ and they said no or didn’t listen.”

Housemasters meet on protests

Senior House Housemasters Henry and Cynthia Jenkins attended another impromptu meeting with Baker, Redwine, and Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict on Monday morning.

During the meeting, Benedict and Baker discussed the right of the students to protest, Henry Jenkins later wrote in an e-mail to dormitory mailing lists

“Clearly MIT is the kind of place where the right to protest is part of our community,” Baker said in an interview.

“The central concerns are not with the protest per se but with when, where, and how it is conducted,” Jenkins wrote.

“They stated that they would not object if students wanted to hand out flyers to students attending events as long as they did so in an orderly fashion and did not disrupt the event proper,” he wrote.

Protests lost on freshmen

The upperclassmen’s passionate concerns about the evisceration of Rush seem lost on their target audience of freshmen.

Nadeem A. Mazen ’06 said, “I saw the shark, but I didn’t know what it was for.”

“If they thought anything about it, it was that it was just a part of college life,” said Tara R. Diduch ’06 of her classmates and the PlayFair protest.

Shannon E. Turner ’06 said of the East Campus anti-mandatory campaign, “I think it’s kind of silly; it’s kind of extreme.”

Redwine said that confusion among freshmen over the meaning of the protests was not surprising. “I think the freshmen haven’t participated in some of the history,” he said.

Leaders apprehensive on changes

East Campus Rush Chair Emily E. Cofer ’03 said that this year’s turnout for East Campus Rush events was markedly lower than last year’s. She expressed concern that some protest activities may have turned off freshmen who might otherwise consider East Campus.

Other dormitory leaders said they have seen freshmen commit earlier to housing and explore fewer options, in part because of the increased volume of information disseminated over the summer via printed and electronic housing guides.

Kessenich and Bronder both noted satisfying turnouts at their respective dormitories’ events, though they said a larger-than-usual proportion of the turnout consisted of freshmen who had already decided on their housing.

“A lot of freshmen were apprehensive about moving across campus,” Bronder said.