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Students Request Opinions On Ring

By Marissa Vogt

NEWS EDITOR

A group of sophomores launched a Web site this Tuesday morning to express their discontent over certain features on the 2006 Brass Rat. At the time of press, the site’s survey had received 196 responses, 172 of which came from members of the Class of 2006.

M. Jordan Stanway ’06, one of the creators of the Web site, said that the motivation behind the online survey came from discussions with his friends regarding the two Greek letters, phi and theta, under the Cambridge skyline.

We wanted “to get the Greek letters off of the Brass Rat, and we know that a lot of people feel the same way,” he said. “We wanted to get a poll together and see if there was something we could get done.”

The letters “don’t represent the whole Greek community,” Stanway said. “They don’t represent the whole class,” since 60 percent are not part of the Greek system.

Members of the ring committee declined to comment.

FAQs addressed on Web site

The brochure given out at the ring premiere last Saturday says that the letters are meant as a reflection of “the new rule that all freshmen, regardless of their Greek affiliation, must live on campus.”

On a Web site addressing frequently asked questions, http://web.mit.edu/2006ringcomm/Webpages/FAQs.htm, the ring committee explains their choice of the letters phi and theta.

“It is the nature of the ring to reflect major policy changes that the Institute makes during our time here. For the sake of brevity and not mentioning any specific FSILGs during premiere, the selection process of the two Greek letters was abbreviated to ‘the two letters occurring with the most frequency.’”

“We also had to make sure that no specific FSILG’s were referenced directly by the way their names are spoken at MIT. Phi was an obvious first letter with 17 occurrences, next was Alpha with 11, but the two together would have spelled Alpha Phi, a sorority.”

“Tied for third were Sigma and Theta with 10. Sigma would have referenced Phi Sigma Kappa, better known as Phi Sig, a fraternity.”

“The combination of Phi and Theta has no direct reference to any of the Greek organizations on campus. There is no organization that is referred to by these two letters.”

Survey rates letters, stars

Stanway said that the survey, at http://ring2006.mit.edu, uses certificates for credibility. It asks users two questions with a scale from 1 to 5, 1 meaning “I like it” and 5 meaning “I don’t want it on my rat.”

At time of press, the average response from members of the Class of 2006 to the question “how do you feel about the greek letters under the skyline?” was 4.40.

The average response from members of the Class of 2006 to “how do you feel about the unexplained twin stars on the bezel and shank, a possible reference to a specific living group’s symbol?” was 3.65.

These numbers are based on 172 responses, or 17.5 percent of the class of 2006.

Stars on bezel, shank questioned

Stanway said that the two stars concerned him because of their resemblance to the twin star insignia for the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.

The ring committee Web site says that “the stars that appear on the ring are a part of the ‘Starry Night’ scene that we chose to represent. They in no way represent the affiliation of any members of the Ring Committee.”

“The stars were not specifically mentioned during Premiere because they are purely aesthetic and have no symbolic meaning. We thought the mention that we included a ‘Starry Night’ motif in the sky for two of the sides would be enough. In fact, they were a suggestion from the company artist who drew the ring design, not a suggestion from a committee member.”

“Finally, be aware that every motion that was made during the design process required more than a 2/3 vote to be passed, which ensured that the committee never voted favorably on a symbol which represented only a small part of the group.”

Stanway said that he had spoken with Class of 2006 President Raphael Farzan-Kashani ’06 during the week about his concerns.

“Raphael tried to explain to me the rationale behind the things on the ring and to get us to not open up this whole can of worms,” Stanway said. “The way he explained the stars were sufficient for me personally.”

Four of the ring committee members, Tania D. Das ’06, Valerie Y. Kuo ’06, Lucy Y. Li ’06, and Wey-Jiun Lin ’06, are affiliated with Kappa Alpha Theta.

Diversity considered in committee

“One thing that is kind of a misconception, at the time we selected the committee, only two of them were in Kappa Alpha Theta. The other two pledged in the past year,” said Class of 2006 Vice President Brendan J. Smith ’06, who was involved in the process of selecting the committee. “We made every effort to select a diverse committee as well as a talented one.”

“There’s so much thought that went into everything that went onto the ring,” said Smith. “People don’t understand that. I’ve heard so many misinterpretations about what the symbols represent.”

“We did the best we could, we picked the best people. At the end of the section process, I was thrilled with the people we picked. After seeing the ring, I think we definitely did a good job.”

“There’s so much thought that went into everything that went onto the ring,” said Smith. “People don’t understand that. I’ve heard so many misinterpretations about what the symbols represent.”

“I think people get the impression that we’re mad at ringcomm and what they did,” Stanway said. “We’re actually very impressed with what ringcomm did on the whole, but the letters are something that are unnecessary, out of place, and inappropriate.”

Lauren E. LeBon contributed to the reporting of this story.