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Traditional Design, Seal Featured on 2008 Brass Rat

By Marie Y. Thibault

By the time the doors to Kresge Auditorium opened at 7:30 p.m. last Friday, the line of students awaiting the unveiling of the Class of 2008 brass rat stretched almost to Massachusetts Avenue. This year’s ring is “simple and elegant,” and students generally liked the design, though a few said that it lacked symbols special to the Class of 2008, said Ring Committee Chairman Joshua A. Geltman ’08.

However, before the unveiling of the real bezel, a spoof version featuring a cartoon beaver was presented. Murmurs of “pure confusion” could be heard from the audience, said Geltman.

When Rebecca N. Motola-Barnes ’08 stepped to the podium and said “that was a joke,” the audience responded with whoops and cheers.

The real design included many traditional features, but also was the first to feature the hacker’s map depicting all the campus buildings reachable by underground tunnels. The traditional Boston and Cambridge skylines are included on the sides of the ring, but the Cambridge skyline is set at night, with a crescent moon in the sky.

The class shank was very similar to that of the original Brass Rat from 1930. In recent years the class year has been featured at the top, but the “08” on this year’s ring is at the bottom, with the same font and location as the 1930 ring.

Additionally the shank featured the Great Dome and the number 141 written in binary, for this 141st graduating class. MIT terms “punt” and “tool” are written in the clouds behind the dome. In a tribute to MIT’s first female president Susan Hockfield, the goddess Athena stands in Killian Court, wearing presidential regalia.

This year, the MIT seal was unaltered, in response to suggestions from members of the class of 2008, Geltman said. It was received with thunderous applause that lasted almost a minute. Last year, the inclusion of a woman on the 2007 Brass Rat drew criticism from some students. The majority of students surveyed wanted the original MIT seal on the ring, Geltman said.

The ring’s face, or bezel, is again very traditional. It features a beaver sitting on the banks of the Charles River, facing left like on the original 1930s beaver. Under him is a pile of sticks spelling IHTFP, acronym for two diametrically opposite well-known MIT slogans. A boat with a DNA helix sails away in the river, symbolizing the loss of Course 13 (Ocean Engineering) and simultaneously the addition of a Biological Engineering major.

The spoof design featured a food truck, a popular lunchtime option for MIT students, and a group of tourists, who are “ever present here at MIT.” The words “punt” and “tool” were repeated on this bezel, which in addition to the cartoon beaver had a chain-link fence to remind students of construction on campus. Geltman said that the idea for the prank arose during ring committee meetings. “We gelled very well with each other,” he said, and decided that a spoof bezel would be a hilarious idea. The prank was designed by Ring Committee historian Akil J. Middleton ’08 and was sent to the ring artist for an official look, Geltman said.

The Class of 2008 will congregate again on Saturday, April 22 at the Boston Public Library to receive their rings.