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COLUMN

Against Stereotype Propagation

Dear Editors of The Tech:

We, the undersigned faculty and staff, were disturbed by the invitation to the “ghetto party” circulated by members of East Campus on October 2, 2003. We believe that representations of this kind, even if intended to be humorous, undermine MIT’s goal of providing an atmosphere in which students have equal opportunity to excel. Repeating damaging stereotypes of minority men and women and of the poor without explicit critique allows such distorted beliefs to persist and often reinforces them. Moreover, it is unrealistic to expect those who have been viewed through the lens of such stereotypes to be unaffected by their circulation. Those who have suffered the unjust effects of these stereotypes should not be the ones asked to adjust their responses to accommodate others who find them funny. Derogatory racial and sexual stereotypes common in public life present hurdles that some members of the MIT community have to clear on a regular basis. When such stereotypes are highlighted in provocative ways on the MIT campus, it compounds their pernicious effects and threatens efforts to create a fair and equitable academic environment.

Signed (in alphabetical order):

Sylvain Bromberger, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Noam Chomsky, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Francine Crystal, Human Resources

Thomas DeFrantz, Music and Theater Arts Section and Women’s Studies Program

Evelyne Ender, Women’s Studies Program

Rebecca Faery, Writing Program and Women’s Studies Program

Suzanne Flynn, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Elizabeth Fox, Writing Program

Elizabeth Garrels, Foreign Languages and Literatures Section, Spanish and Latin American Studies

Mary Grenham, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Joe Haldeman, Writing Program

Ned Hall, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Morris Halle, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Paula T. Hammond, Chemical Engineering

Stefanie Hanlon, Department of Linguistics & Philosophy

Sally Haslanger, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy and Women’s Studies Program

Emily Meghan Morrow Howe, Women’s Studies Program

Starling David Hunter III, Sloan School of Management

Jean Jackson, Department of Anthropology and Women’s Studies Program

Meg Jacobs, History Section

Louis Kampf, Literature Section

Wyn Kelley, Literature Section and Women’s Studies Program

Samuel Jay Keyser, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Alec Marantz, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Janis Melvold, Writing Program

Douglas Morgenstern, Foreign Languages and Literatures Section, Spanish

Anne McCants, History Section and Women’s Studies Program

Michele Oshima, Office of the Arts

James Paradis, Writing Program

Peter Perdue, History Section

Ruth Perry, Literature Section and Women’s Studies Program

Jeff Ravel, History Section

Brian Robison, Music and Theater Arts Section

Lawrence Sass, Architecture

Robert Stalnaker, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Abha Sur, Women’s Studies Program

James H. Williams Jr., Mechanical Engineering and Writing Program

Rosalind Williams, Writing Program and STS

Elizabeth Wood, History Section and Women’s Studies Program

Pamela S. Wood, Music and Theatre Arts Section

Stephen Yablo, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Cheryl Zoll, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy