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The Case for Ring Simplicity

I would like to express my agreement with Devdoot Majumdar’s column “The Fraudulent Ring Tradition” [Mar. 5]. I am a member of the class of 2002, and I too do not have a ring. I did not purchase a ring because I was not pleased with the design, which included, among other things, an MIT seal altered to include a woman. It wasn’t that I object to women at MIT, or believe that women contribute nothing to science; rather that I felt it was foolish to pretend that a seal including a man and a woman is the seal of MIT. I did not wish to spend my life explaining to other alumni why my brass rat included a false seal.

At the time, I expressed my opposition to this in several e-mail discussions, pointing out that this ring is supposed to represent the sum of our MIT experience, and altering the MIT seal was hardly the defining point of my four years. Upon suggesting that perhaps a more traditional design was in order, I was told in no uncertain terms by the ring committee that there was no such thing as a traditional design and the ring committee changed the design each year as a tradition.

As Majumdar said in his column, this “tradition” is fraudulent. Discussions with older MIT alumni reveal that in the past, the ring committee was charged primarily with locating a jeweler and taking orders, and the design was largely unchanged. Indeed, comparing images of the 1961 and 1933 brass rats reveals that they are quite similar: the top face features the beaver standing on its hind legs; one side of the shank features the outline of the Great Dome and its columns, and below that the class year; the other side features the same outline of the Dome, and below that the letters “MIT.” And that’s it. It’s a fairly simple design. There’s no seal to offend people, and no personalization save for the class year and, if they so desire, the owner’s initials.

It is this lack of personalization that I find the most important. It is arrogant at worst and naive at best for the ring committee (or any small group of people) to think they can determine the defining events for over 1,000 people over a four-year period. MIT is what you make of it. Sure, the end of dorm rush is sad, but I’m willing to bet many people had personal experiences in their lives to which the loss of rush pales in comparison. When it comes right down to it, the only thing you have in common with every other member of your class is your class year. One can only assume that is why the ring committees in the distant past felt it was the only feature on the ring that should differ from year to year. And given the lack of controversy surrounding those rings, one can only assume that they were right.

Jonathan D. Reed ’02

[LTE]The True Meaning of Marriage Protection[body]
The March 3 edition of The New York Times had a letter that I think made a concise and clear statement regarding what the United States Constitution should say regarding gay marriage, and I feel it bears repeating. Julian H. Breen wrote to The Times that a true marriage protection amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be: “‘The right of couples within the jurisdiction of the United States to enjoy the rights and benefits of marriage shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of race, color, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation.’”
Such an amendment seems like it would fit much better than any of the current amendments under discussion, both for Massachusetts and for the United States. We would do well, also, to remember that church and state are separated in the U.S. Constitution. State-recognized gay marriage does not in any way tread on religious freedom or force any religion to recognize such partnerships. Recognition by the state simply and importantly gives gay couples the same rights and respect afforded by the government to heterosexual couples, and if anything should be sacred in our democracy. It is equal protection under the law.
Michael S. Bradley ’04[sig]

[LTE]Dictionary Duds[body]
As defined by the fourth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the adjective “asinine” indicates something is “utterly stupid or silly.” Truly articulate discourse should not require this fourth-grade writing technique of quoting dictionary definitions. It’s asinine, and an unnecessary literary hook for letters and opinions printed in The Tech.
Daniel M. Ratner G[sig]

[LTE]When a Cause Trumps Regulations[body]
In response to the conservative effort to amend the Massachusetts constitution to ban gay marriage, Senior House hung 50 gay pride flags outside of dorm windows to show support for our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered residents at a time when they are struggling to defend their civil rights.
The pride flag has been used as a symbol of the solidarity of the gay rights movement since before most of our residents were born. Communities throughout the United States fly the pride flag as a symbol of their support for gay civil rights. In demonstrating our support for the rights of our LBGT residents, we felt it most appropriate to fly the gay pride flag and evoke the spirit of inclusion for which it has stood throughout the gay rights movement.
We are cognizant and disappointed that MIT’s flag policy forbids such a demonstration of support. At a time when our residents are defending their basic civil rights, the MIT flag policy prevents them from expressing their support in the way that has been used throughout the history of the gay rights movement. We feel that the policy of appeasement adopted by MIT with regard to flags is flawed when applied to a situation of such severity. When one's civil rights are in jeopardy, it is appropriate to err on the side of free speech even if it causes conflict.
Robert W. Sumner G[sig]