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Letters to the Editor

New Card Not Welcome


This letter was sent on June 28 to the Card Office and Publishing Services Bureau and was subsequently forwarded to e-mail discussion lists at East Campus and Senior House.

The recent redesign of the MIT Card has been garnering a certain amount of attention on undergraduate mailing lists in the past couple of weeks. Having been unaware of the fact that the design of the MIT Card was up for revision, I found myself dismayed both by the new designs posted on the MIT Card Web site, and by the apparent lack of real student input on the affair.

As an incoming student, I remember being struck by the simplicity of MIT’s graphic identity. When compared to the complex seals and special serif fonts that other well-known schools sported, MIT’s logo (and its supporting materials as a whole) were simple, functional, and elegant. It seemed to me that put together, these things projected exactly the right sort of attitude for a world-renowned technical university. The old design featured on MIT cards lived up to that aesthetic.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the new designs. They seem like something a second-rate institution might use to try to bolster their image as “cutting-edge.” The generic ‘science’ backgrounds have little to do with MIT, and the frankly garish color choices seem more related to the original iMac than to the actual school colors. The designs overall look like something off of a badly-constructed Web page. The impression that one gets from the new design is that MIT is insecure, and feels a need to shout out its importance to the world. However, that’s not necessary. MIT doesn’t need to use its graphic identity to prove to the world that it’s an innovative world-class technical university. The world already knows that, and respects MIT accordingly. The understated elegance of the older aesthetic (and, for that matter, the older and more legible logo) did a lot more to communicate that uniqueness than the stock-photograph backgrounds and fancy text-placement of the new cards.

I understand that a redesign was in order, in part due to the technical process by which cards are issued. However, I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you that the way MIT chooses to present itself is important. I don’t believe that the new design represents MIT very well, and I’ve heard similar concerns from a large number of students. This brings me to my second point: the fact that the cards were being redesigned was not well-publicized, and perhaps as a result, there seems to be some sentiment that students (and possibly other portions of the MIT community) were not consulted in the new design of the MIT Card.

Consider: the entire MIT community carries an MIT Card. A frequent constant complaint around campus is that decisions made by committee often don’t reflect the actual opinions of the community, because they’re too dependant on the opinions of individual committee members, and the members’ level of commitment to gauging the opinions of the people they represent. When making decisions that affect the entire MIT community, as well as the way MIT presents itself to the world, it seems that some greater effort to gather input from the community is needed.

Although it is, of course, impossible to allow every interested person a spot on a committee, technology provides some more efficient ways of gathering information. An article or two in the campus newspaper, The Tech, with contact information and a link to a Web site with the candidate designs would have been a good first step in raising awareness of the redesign process and soliciting opinions. An online survey, or even an online bulletin board (like the board recently used to gather undergraduate input on GIR redesign) would also have been good ways of getting a better feel for the opinions of the community. Depending on the method used, it could have been fairly easy to figure out what the community as a whole liked or disliked. When a decision affects the entire community (and when technology makes it fairly easy to get direct feedback from much of that community), it seems almost irresponsible to assume a handful of representatives can accurately represent the community, and to eschew any effort to gather direct information.

I devoutly hope that future attempts to alter MIT’s graphic identity, or subsets thereof, will feature a much broader effort to consider the opinions of the community as a whole. Furthermore, although I realize that there might be logistical difficulties, I hope that the Card Office and Publishing Services Board will consider delaying the rollout of the new design until after they have made a more active effort to solicit opinions regarding the design. Furthermore, I hope that, pending that data, they will consider the possibility of coming up with a revised version of the new design. I’m proud to have my photograph on the current MIT card, but sadly I can’t say the same about the new cards, and I’m concerned that when they realize that the current MIT card is soon to disappear, many others will feel the same way.

Grace Kenney ’07

Crisis for Women’s Crew


This letter was sent on June 9 to Athletic Director Candace L. Royer and copied to Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict.

I have now had time to digest the e-mail [member of the board of directors of the Friends of MIT Crew Board] Kim Marvin distributed to the FOMITC Board on Wednesday [June 8] which summarized his [June 7] meeting with you and Dean Benedict, along with [President of the FOMITC and former MIT Crew Coach] Jack Frailey ’44 and [member of the Rowing Analysis Committee convened by DAPER this spring to examine the state of the rowing program] Dick Millman ’62. I was struck that apparently no mention was made of the fact that MIT has no Women’s Crew coaches on its staff at this time.

Perhaps energetic measures searching the country for a competent coach to fill those positions have been underway since Coach Lindholm resigned in May, or when Coach Congram was unceremoniously let go in March. However, this is my profession, and as such, I routinely check the sources colleges usually use to advertise openings such as these — not to mention the Novice Coaching positions, which to the best of my knowledge are vacant as well. And, nothing has come to my attention, not on http://www.row2k.com, nor http://www.ncaa.org, nor http://web.mit.edu.

If, at this late point in time, nothing has been initiated along those lines, I can tell you from my own personal experience that MIT’s Women’s program is facing a dire and an unnecessary calamity. It would seem obvious to me, under these circumstances especially, given the shortage of time and the great effort required to mount a thorough search for a Head Women’s Coach, that Coach Congram simply be recalled to fill that position, even on an interim basis, if need be. The momentum he created within the whole Women’s program while coach of the Lightweight squad took two years to get going as would be expected, completely turned the program around, and will be lost more rapidly than those two years allowed without the immediate attention to hiring a qualified and competent coach.

I cannot stress how appalled I am that there are no Women’s coaches on staff. I find this matter deeply troubling to be happening at MIT, what I can only describe now as a so-called leading university — at once at the forefront of excellence in academics, and now priding itself on its so-called commitment to the quality of student life. Now, it is at MIT, where former President Vest undertook a timely study to examine the role of women at the Institute when other colleges have fallen and continue to fall short, where we have our first woman president in Susan Hockfield, now where MIT is not doing what it should to provide the women at MIT as well as the men what they deserve in order to receive the best education possible.

I strenuously urge your serious consideration of my suggestion to rehire Coach Congram and to fill the other positions as soon as possible with qualified candidates before it is too late. I doubt that many other alumnae understand how serious the situation is right now, but it is only a matter of time before they realize the state of affairs.

Linda Muri ’85

Coach of Harvard Lightweight Men’s Crew