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Politics in 7.012 Lecture Edited Out

By Kelley Rivoire


Comments regarding the presidential election made by Professor Robert A. Weinberg ’64 in an Introductory Biology (7.012) lecture last Wednesday were initially posted online as part of the lecture, but were later removed. MIT certificates are now required to view 7.012 lectures online.

Weinberg had made it “his express interest not to have [the comments] taped in the first place,” said Dr. Claudette L. Gardel, a 7.012 instructor. Prior to the lecture, Weinberg had arranged a signal with the Academic Media Production Services technicians as to when taping should begun, he said.

After the original tape, political comments included, was posted online, the tape was “cropped according to [Weinberg’s] wishes” and reposted, said David Mycue, Head of Streaming Operations for AMPS. There “was a miscue” between Weinberg and AMPS, he said.

Weinberg was unavailable for comment.

Weinberg derided Bush

Andrew J. Shafer ’07, a 7.012 student who attended Wednesday’s lecture, said that “he kind of went off on [the election].”

Shafer said Weinberg told the class that every one of them had more intelligence in his little finger than Bush had.

Catarina Bjelkengren ’06 said Weinberg said “he was sad that [the election] turned out the way it did,” and now we “will have to clear up this mess that Bush made during his four years here.”

Steven R. Dabic ’08 said Weinberg commented that the results of the election show that anyone with rich friends can be president.

Taping unintentional

Gardel said Weinberg “didn’t want the original thing to be videotaped in the first place,” and that he intended his comments only to be heard by students in the class.

Mycue said the recording of the entire lecture online was probably the result of a miscommunication between AMPS staff and Weinberg. He said technicians often start recording early because “if the professor starts abruptly, it’s hard to recover.”

Comments later removed

The online lecture was amended the day after it was posted to not include the initial comments.

Mycue said the error in posting the election-related comments online was found as a result of e-mails sent to OpenCourseWare and an e-mail from a technician.

According to Gardel, viewers who initially saw the lecture online “loved it,” and asked to download a copy.

The recently added requirement of MIT certificates to view 7.012 lectures was not the result of the comments made by Weinberg, said Gardel. She said that the lectures, which will be available as part of OpenCourseWare in May 2005, had not been properly scrutinized for intellectual property violations.

Mycue said that the requirement for certificates “may have come about because [OCW staff] were aware people were accessing the content” as a result of increased viewing of lectures from Weinberg’s comments.

He said that proper procedures were not followed regarding review of the online lectures because of the “more rapid than usual turnaround” between the lecture date and posting, and that he is “trying to institute a more formal procedure” for the review of online lectures.

Student opinion mixed

Shafer said Weinberg’s comments “seemed a little bit out of place, but didn’t bother me.”

Spencer C. Dudley ’07, a 7.012 student who watched the lecture online before it was removed, said that he “can understand why [Weinberg] was distraught” and “personally wasn’t offended” by the remarks.

Zachary E. Brewer ’07, a 7.012 student, said he was “actually kind of offended by what [Weinberg] said” because Weinberg “kind of assumed that everyone agreed with it.”

Brewer said he “didn’t feel like it had anything to do with the class and “didn’t feel like it was very professional,” and he “thought about getting up and walking out.”

Dabic said most people laughed, and although he voted for Bush, he thought Weinberg’s remarks were acceptable, since they came after the election.