Tech Independent Critic Impeached, EIC ResignsBy Kathy Dobson
Following a three-week-long internal dispute among managing board members concerning the role of the ombudsman at The Tech, Brian Loux ’04, the Editor in Chief of The Tech, resigned last Friday, and John A. Hawkinson, The Tech’s ombudsman, was impeached and removed at a Tech managing board meeting held on Sunday.
In a statement read at the managing board meeting, Loux expressed his dissatisfaction with the way in which senior members of The Tech handled what he called “a crisis” concerning the suspension of Hawkinson over an alleged violation of The Tech’s managing board meeting confidentiality policy and the subsequent reactions of Hawkinson, Tech Chairman Hangyul Chung ’05, and certain other editors of The Tech.
“I agree that the situation had become very political, and it created a lot of tension,” Chung said. “It really divided a lot of people on the issue, so I can understand” Loux’s position, she said.
Chairman considers resigning
Keith J. Winstein G, a senior editor for The Tech, said that the three members of the executive board remaining after Loux’s resignation threatened to resign if Hawkinson, who has been the Tech’s ombudsman since May of 2003, was not impeached. These three members were Chung, Business Manager Roy K. Esaki ’04, and Managing Editor David Carpenter ’05.
Chung said that she had had thoughts of resigning and that Hawkinson and his position were part of the problem. “Like any student group at MIT, we are very passionate and emotionally attached to what we do,” and Hawkinson’s criticism was causing a decline in morale among Tech staff, she said. She stressed that The Tech is a student newspaper and not a professional publication, and Hawkinson “wasn’t necessarily the diplomat that was needed in that position.”
Esaki and Carpenter had no comment about their intentions of resigning.
Loux said that he was unhappy with the internal disruption in The Tech. “The entire issue has become a political game” for the leaders of The Tech, and they lost sight of “the job of putting out a paper,” he said.
Of the 21 managing board votes, 17 were for impeaching Hawkinson, three were against impeaching him, and one was an abstention. According to The Tech’s constitution, a two-thirds majority of the managing board “is sufficient to remove a member at an impeachment meeting.”
“I can’t really hold it against the people on the managing board that they voted against me, given that their other option was to lose direction and leadership on such a large scale,” Hawkinson said, referring to the resignation intentions of Chung, Esaki, and Carpenter if he stayed.
Ombudsman position unclear
Frank Dabek G, who created the position of the ombudsman at The Tech in 2000 and served as the first ombudsman from October 2000 to December 2000, said that his intent was to provide an independent critic to channel reader’s concerns. “I thought [Hawkinson] provided a valuable service to The Tech,” Dabek said. However, “someone in the position of a critic needs to keep in mind that he’s working with volunteers” and that the job requires a lot of diplomacy and communication with both the readers and editors.
Loux said he thought that Hawkinson’s criticism was too harsh. “His tone and style in both writing his column and dealing with people in the Tech office did not help the Tech or the readers and became somewhat of an insult-fest,” Loux said.
“The reason for not having an ombudsman was that the depth of criticism was too strong and too harsh to deal with,” Hawkinson said, but “the fact that it was improving credibility with readers didn’t seem to matter” to the managing board.
Winstein said that the ombudsman not only adds credibility to The Tech, but also helps to keep the power of the newspaper in check. “Ten thousand people read The Tech, and you can ruin somebody’s life,” Winstein said. “I think we needed a check on that power and [Hawkinson] was that check, and I think removing him immediately because of the ultimatum from the executive board was atrocious.”
As to whether Hawkinson would return as the ombudsman if asked, “if I believed that the paper wanted me back as ombudsman, I probably would be willing to serve as that position, but I would want some guarantee as to their handling of me, because they are completely disregarding the rules,” Hawkinson said.
There is an editor’s note regarding these events on page four of this issue of The Tech.