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Open Letter to Prof. Joe Haldeman

Dear Mr. Haldeman,

You’re probably going to get plenty of letters, and deservedly so, from angry people at MIT who are religious, but I think it’s important that you also get at least one from an atheist. You’re right, of course, that MIT is primarily about “science and engineering and mathematics” (“MIT Does Not Need a Chaplain,” Jan. 9, 2008). However, we have a chaplain for much the same reason that we have adjunct faculty teaching science fiction writing: there is more to life than science. We have a large resident student population, and it is thus fair to expect the Institute to address, in some manner, the needs of their personal lives. Given the large role of religion in the lives of a good proportion of the MIT community, I respect MIT’s decision to add a chaplain, even if it’s not a benefit of which I choose to avail myself. Whether or not we grew up in cultures “saturated in religion,” I certainly hope that we don’t now live in one that is saturated with mindless contempt for it.

Jonathan R. Birge G

Chaplain Position Is Affront to MIT Tradition

In response to Professor Joe Haldeman’s comment (“MIT Does Not Need a Chaplain,” Jan. 9, 2008), I would just like to reinforce his issues and point out that this appointment is an affront to the MIT tradition and culture of independence and anti-establishment attitude, a bastion of scientific reasoning.

When you walk past Killian Court along Memorial Drive and look up at the McLaurin buildings, the names you see inscribed are those of Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Pasteur, D’Alembert, etc., not those of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Mohammad. The famous inscription on Lobby 7 reads, “Established for the Advancement of Science its Applications to Industry the Arts Agriculture and Commerce” — there is no mention to any supposed superior being. Then why now has MIT decided to waste its students’ tuition money so that a few of those students, against everything that is professed at this great institution, can get free, unlicensed psychological counseling?

Miguel Valença Pires G