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An Issue of Tolerance

To the Editor:

I agree with Dean Larry Benedict [“Blowin’ in the Wind,” Oct. 10] and Professor Keith Hampton [“Responding to Flag Flap,” Oct. 17] that it is perfectly reasonable for MIT Housing to enforce a regulation forbidding unauthorized external decorations, provided, of course, that the regulation exists on the books and is enforced universally and blindly to politics. I’ll leave others to argue about whether Jonathan Goler’s and others’ flags were ordered inside as a result of such fair practice. (As an exercise for the informed observer, though, I suggest a tally of the non-flag devices outside dorm windows, such as air conditioners and flower pots, that seem to have eluded the administration’s notice.)

However, as Professor Hampton also noted in his column, “there remains a much larger and more serious issue” -- that of MIT’s ability to be a tolerant and welcoming community. Clearly some people on this campus have a mistaken understanding of the meaning of tolerance, but Professor Hampton’s column does nothing to help the situation. In a display of pure Orwellian doublespeak, he asserts that those who cannot tolerate living in view of a particular country’s flag are “not motivated by intolerance.” Somehow, demanding the flag’s removal (which the original complainer did, even if the Housing Office didn’t) lives up to Professor Hampton’s expressed ideal of “accommodat[ing] others, respect[ing] differences, and go[ing] out of our way to make everyone feel welcome,” and for some reason, it is the Housing Office’s duty (besides enforcing regulations) to communicate that expression of prejudice to the flag’s owner. On the other hand, those who dare to stand up to such unwelcoming behavior and protest against the Housing Office acting as a conduit for it exhibit “the intolerance at the root of the problem.”

I wonder how Professor Hampton would label students who complained of discomfort in classes populated by people with different skin tones. Or, if students told him they found the presence of a rainbow flag “unwelcoming,” I wonder if he would advocate that the Housing Office advance their message to that flag’s owner. If not, is “But Israel’s different” an argument that an a political administration should be making?

Isaac Moses, G