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COLUMN

Questioning Ring Committee Composition

Jay S. Gill

While the article about the 2006 Brass Rat controversy made many people aware of the situation [“Students Request Opinions on Ring,” Feb. 27], I want to elucidate some of the complaints our class has, and to respond to the letter that our Ring Committee has put on its web site.

Above all else, I cannot fathom why the committee possibly thought I would want any Greek letters on my class ring. With no disrespect to the fraternities at MIT. I don’t find myself living in one, and I don’t want to explain to people for the rest of my life why I’m wearing an apparent fraternity name on my finger. Understandably, the eight Greek-affiliated members on the ten-person Ring Committee may not have realized at the time how ludicrous this is, but their lack of response to the uproar highlights the self-absorbed nature of the whole process.

This is not the rant of a few bored individuals -- as of Sunday afternoon, 20 percent of the class of 2006 has declared an equally strong objection. Those 200 sophomores thought strongly enough about this issue to add their thoughts to an online poll/petition at http://ring2006.mit.edu, and the feedback is overwhelmingly negative.

In response, the committee has nobly exercised its right to ignore, reveling in their complete lack of accountability. In a statement posted online, the committee wrote, “No class should believe that Ring Premiere is a time to submit ideas for the Brass Rat...and the full responsibility of designing the ring was given to a committee.” The class of 2006 is left with little recourse but to ponder the wisdom of a system in which we can give no feedback. Yes, the responsibility of designing the ring was given to a committee. Do you remember choosing these people? Most likely not, unless you’re one of the six Class Council members that have a say in the matter. The committee was entrusted with the responsibility of designing an appropriate ring for our class, and even though 190 of 217 respondents thus far say it has failed, the committee declines to honor that responsibility: “It is the Ring Committee’s final decision not to change the 2006 Brass Rat, regardless of whether or not it is a feasible option.”

There is a problem more fundamental than a few Greek letters: the composition of the committee itself. I know for certain that my own dorm, among many others, is wholly unrepresented. For the half of the class that lives in these dorms, the Ring Premiere is the first opportunity we have to even see the ring, eliminating any influence we may have had on the process. While this is all well and good for the Ring Committee, who can gleefully put their own favorite symbols all over the Brass Rat, knowing that they have carte blanche on the design, it is rather obviously not the formula for a ring that represents the class.

So the question remains, why is the entire Ring process put in the hands of ten people whose sole qualification is the favor of the Class Council? Why not at least ensure some measure of validity to the process by, for example, composing the Ring Committee of representatives from each dorm and a proportional number from the ILGs? Or why not unveil the design earlier, allowing at least one round of feedback? It seems the either of these options might lead to a Ring Committee that spends less time designing narcissistic Flash animations for its Web site, and more time designing a rat that doesn’t offend a large portion of the class.

Until that happens, all we can do is cover up this travesty in the best way possible:

“Why you have a Phi and Theta on your ring?”

“Oh, I’m a big fan of spherical coordinates...”

Jay S. Gill is a member of the class of 2006.