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Response to ‘Trust the Police?’

The “Wannabe Hackers,” in a Letter to the Editor published Nov. 21, 2008, described an “experiment” that they performed to test the trust between students and the MIT Campus Police. A good experiment is based on valid assumptions, and uses sound logic to draw a conclusion. The wannabe hackers’ experiment did neither.

The wannabe hackers say that they “decided to take DiFava at his word,” based on an earlier article in The Tech. What The Tech prints is not necessarily DiFava’s word; especially when he made it clear during his meeting with the students at East Campus that it was off-the-record. That was the first failed assumption of the wannabe hackers.

If they were serious about testing DiFava’s word, they should have tried to contact DiFava — not whoever happened to be on CP duty that night. “Informing” the Campus Police is not the same as “talking to” the Campus Police. The wannabe hackers made no effort to have any sort of dialogue with the Campus Police. Merely telling a police officer that you are about to do something illegal is not a very credible or practical approach.

The wannabe hackers say that “this was a perfectly legal observational exercise.” False. Calling in a hoax is against the law. They assert that going ahead with a hack would probably have resulted in arrest. This is a claim without any real supporting evidence, since no hackers have been arrested on a roof or the dome recently.

I can’t say whether informing the MIT Police ahead of time is the solution for hackers, but playing games with the MIT Police is definitely not one. Trust doesn’t appear out of thin air, it has to be built. DiFava tried to build trust with students by coming to East Campus, a home to many hackers. The actions of the wannabe hackers are destroying trust.

The wannabe hackers’ experiment was based on faulty assumptions, lacked reasoning, and lacked integrity. The only thing that they got right in their letter to The Tech was the way they signed it.

Vinayak Ranade ’09 President of East Campus