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Re: Stop Complaining

In his Feb 20 opinion in The Tech, Akash Chandawarkar feels that the MIT administration’s policies have been beneficial enough to students to deserve their trust, and many others, myself included, disagree. But even if for the sake of charity we assume that until two weeks ago the MIT administration was the good shepherd, a cursory examination reveals that its recent actions give few reasons to trust its intentions.

One fact that has been conspicuously overlooked is the treatment that the Blue Ribbon Dining Committee was given in the consultant’s report. Despite having commissioned the report, according to The Tech’s Fri, Feb 13th issue, before the BRDC was even notified of the report’s completion, it had already been delivered to administrators, revised after administrative recommendations, and only then leaked. Karen Nilsson’s claims of not wanting to “waste everyone’s time” do not change the fact that the administration was acting to control the information given to the committee without its knowledge.

In addition, Dean Colombo’s message to students reiterating that the BRDC would be used as a respected advisory body completely ignored the fact that the UA, representing the entire student body and directly comprising a third of the active members of the BRDC itself, called for its dissolution. Either the administration chose to continue recognizing a student-faculty committee even after its own members repudiated its legitimacy or it did not bother to find out about the UA’s resolution. Neither option puts the administration in a good light.

It is true that the MIT administration deserves respect. What is also true is that the student body will reciprocate what it is given. MIT must make the first move — and it needs to be cognizant of its actions towards students that have lost faith in its sincerity.

In the meantime, I think that Mr. Chandawarkar and I will agree that what, where, how and when we eat are very personal issues. The best thing that we as students can do is to cool our emotions and promote civil, respectful, and informed dialogue.

Joshua C. Velson ’10

Pick Up a Sign

In his opinion article on Feb. 20, Mr. Chandawarkar complains “This isn’t the 60s,” and that we should simply trust the MIT administration to do what is right. I take serious issue with this sentiment.

I applied to MIT for the school I thought it was; not the school it would become. Regardless of where I went, I expected to be able to have a say in what it was that went on, especially since we (the students) bear the brunt of any changes made by the administration with regard to dining, hacking, housing, etc. MIT was once a university that listened to and supported its students; just speak with any of the faculty who went here as undergraduates for a very interesting perspective on how things have changed. Today, MIT no longer supports its students when questioned in the public eye (Star Simpson and the Faculty Club ordeal both come to mind). MIT is now being run as a business rather than a school; we can understand the reasons behind why this is happening, but that doesn’t mean we have to chew it down and pretend to like it.

MIT was once a safe haven for exploration, creativity, and freedom of expression. Some of the most interesting scientific progress in history was made by accident; students playing around and testing the limits of what was considered “acceptable.” That was once encouraged and supported at MIT, but is no longer. This, more than anything, instills fear in me for the future of the Institute.

For this reason, we cannot simply trust MIT to do what is right by us. I have parents. Even remotely, they support me through anything and work through things with me when I do something wrong. MIT should not be our parents. Rather, it should be a place that is a safe haven for creativity and unforced social and educational growth. Forcing “community” does not work; be it through dining, randomized housing, all-freshmen housing, or all-freshmen design classes. Community occurs on its own, through shared experiences.

I don’t want MIT to become “just another school.” Many of us came here specifically because it wasn’t that. Don’t let it become that; that is our plea.

The perfect example of what I believe is faulty with Mr. Chandawarkar’s thinking lies in the following quote: “You, the protestor, were being spoon-fed by your mothers one or two years ago at home. Who probably has a better idea of what works on college campuses: the MIT student who has been living on his or her own for a few years or the professional who does it for a living? I’m going to go with the latter.” I believe that the administration has a better idea of what works on most college campuses; I fully agree. I believe even more strongly, however, that the students have a better idea of what works on the MIT campus. There is a particular culture here that is different from other campuses, despite any administrative attempts to squelch it.

We are not a homogenous campus. I like it that way. It’s why I came here. In the 1960s, streets were set ablaze and students arrested all around campus for issues such as these. All I’m asking is if you care, stand up for yourselves. Contact the administration. Let your voices be heard. I’m picking up a sign.

Michael Borohovski ’09