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Design of 2007 Brass Rat Elegant, Traditional, and Classy

By Ruth Miller


The premiere of the 76th Brass Rat was exactly what the class of 2007 requested for its ring: elegant, traditional, and classy -- elegant in that semi-elegant level of professionalism that undergrads are willing to aspire to, traditional in that nothing was out of the expected, and classy in that the jokes were good and agreeable to all.

(Elegant, Traditional, Classy)^42

The occasion was good. I haven’t seen people from my own class since my GIRs last year, and it’s cool to gather everyone together. The Ring Committee did a good job marketing the “class unity” shtick. The musical selections for the event were strong choices, including Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You,” something from Kill Bill Vol. 1, and a piece by the Blue Man Group, which provided a pleasant, ambient sound without overpowering our focused attention.

The jokes were even good. Maybe my palate was desperate after seeing the Chorallaries’ Bad Taste, but seriously, the presentation was funny in all the right ways. It provided a good background for the decisions that went into the ring, and since we all knew the ring was going to be controversial, the designers preempted a lot of hate by talking about the design process. “Our class is well-rounded, the ring should be spherical!” Classy.

Next, it was our turn to be “humbled” by the history of the brass rat. I have some school pride, so I’m always happy to hear about how the beaver came to be our mascot. Lester Gardner ’89 put it best: “His habits are nocturnal. He does his best work in the dark.” I’m a political science major, and I can sympathize with that. This is quality class unification stuff.

Yankees suck

The class shank, in my personal vocabulary, is hot. Symbolizing a hack is always sketchy, because people say that they don’t unify the campus, but the Wright brothers’ plane is a fair exception. Not only that, but the Roman numerals XIX, the unofficial course number of hacking, are written on the plane, and that’s even more awesome. The emblem of “punt” and “tool” is really sweet. Even better, the reversed “CURSE” on the little dome solicited a chant of “Yankees Suck” from some off-season, seasonal baseball fans. This sucks for the Yankees fans, but honestly, screw ’em. Getting tear-gassed in a riot was a crucial part of my college experience, and even the non-Red Sox fans can relate to seeing a city explode for one day in October.

Hurting feelings

With the push of a button, the image of a girl was revealed on the seal shank. I will not refer to her as a “woman,” because the image on the rat is not of a woman. A ponytail and jumper are not the uniform of a female scientist, leader of industry, Nobel laureate, or MIT president. Sure, her uniform is from the same time period as the man she shares the shank with, but the 1800’s weren’t exactly a time of gender equality worth remembering. I haven’t worn a jumper since I told my mom to stop dressing me, and she looks about that same age, while the man looks like he could be her father. I won’t even discuss the butter churn thing.

People cheered and jeered. Some left. The ceremony continued, but without the fun feeling from before that fateful button push. For some, our committee had failed us by getting lost in trendy political correctness, and for the rest, our class had failed us with their contempt for progress.

Picking up the pieces

With the lighthearted mood broken, the appearance of the bezel brought welcome laughter. The presenters partially won the crowd back with references to shower night, a subtle cross-collegiate attack (“conveying MIT’s academic prowess and superiority to the eight universities in the Ivy League”), a juggling beaver, and the insight of our representative classmates -- “a zero and a seven spelling out 07.”

There’s a freaking milk maid on it

What about the class of 2007 is represented by the image of a girl on the brass rat? Sure, we were freshmen for the Ghetto Party. We were sophomores for the Larry Summers’ remarks. Only God knows what else we’ll get to see in the other half of our undergraduate years.

What we do know is that race problems, gender issues, and questions of equality are not special to MIT. The world has these problems. The world had these problems in 2003, when the sophomore class arrived on campus, and the world, including MIT, will continue to have these problems in 2007, when the sophomore class departs.

The part about the ring that saddens me is that even in this temple of higher learning, we’re susceptible to the trend of feminism. Yes, I said trend. It’s one thing to desire equality, but it’s another to demand special treatment. Screaming for special treatment is, hopefully, something that one grows out of.

The MIT seal does not have a 10-year-old girl on it, so why does my ring? If you want equality, ask for equal representation on the official seal. It’s more of a part of MIT than the ring. Forcing representation through peripheries, like the ring, is low. Take the fight to the actual seal if it pissed you off that much.

Mature Conclusion

There are some productive compromises, and hopefully, the class of 2008 will continue to learn from previous years’ mistakes. Why is there such a pronounced age difference between the people on the seal? Why not make them both students, or both adults? Why not make her look more professional? No butter churner ever won a Nobel Prize, became a captain of industry, or was President of MIT.

To both sides: keep it clean. Facebook hate groups, while modern, are infantile. Hate mail to the members of the Ring Committee is also infantile. No decision they made would have garnered 100 percent support, and they made a strong effort to gauge student opinions. If you desperately feel the need flame someone, you aren’t taking enough classes and are clearly too well-rested.

I remember hearing about the brass rat when I visited MIT as a prefrosh, and I’ve been excited about getting mine ever since. In the two years since then, I’ve learned a lot about disappointments, and I’ve taken 14.02. The cheapest gold ring is worth 63 super burritos. Sixty-three super burritos is a lot. What’s my marginal utility for a ring I don’t especially love and just reminds me of a controversy that my side lost?