In the controversy surrounding murals in Burton-Conner, it seems that the undergraduates and the housemasters are separately debating two very different concerns: one is focusing on the applications of Title IX and the MIT Mind and Hand Book, and the other on the lack of effective communication.
In an interview with The Tech when they first became Burton-Conner’s housemasters, Anne E.C. McCants and her husband Bill McCants expressed that they viewed their role as “to advocate for students when they need an advocate, and to hold them accountable when they need to be held accountable.”
Regarding the murals on floors 1 and 3 of Burton side, the McCants have not faltered in that mission as housemasters. They are advocating on behalf of the people who felt uncomfortable viewing the murals, and they are holding the residents accountable for what is painted on their walls, even if those murals are left from an older generation. They have tried to clear up facts about the events that transpired, sending emails to students and letters to The Tech. Most of this correspondence has addressed Title IX, the MIT Mind and Hand Book, and their relevant applications to the mural situation — and that is what the housemasters see as the crux of the matter.
But that is not what students are upset about.
Instead, their primary concern is the ineffective communication from their housemasters about the situation, not disagreements about the applications of Title IX or the Mind and Hand Book.
While McCants did notify the students that some renovations would be occurring on Burton Third in particular, the scope of what those renovations became was not conveyed faithfully to the students in a timely fashion. Instead, upon returning to campus at the end of the summer, students were surprised by changes to their living space that occurred without adequate communication. Ironically, this has not been effectively communicated to McCants, who still believes the students are primarily upset about the application of Title IX and the Mind and Hand Book.
Both the housemasters and the students must work harder to understand what the other side is truly advocating. Currently, the students are advocating for more open communication about the timeline of events and the decisions made — the housemasters are responding with the Title IX reasoning for the actions that they took. Neither party is responding to the other’s concerns in their limited conversations.
We hope that this editorial sheds some light on this particular situation, but the communication disparity is a lesson that should be taken to heart and actively applied in every discussion.
If groups are not fully cognizant of what is truly concerning to the other parties involved in a situation, it is impossible to communicate effectively and work towards a solution. After all, the problem has not been identified and agreed upon. Instead of jumping to accuse and defend, the next step going forward should be to understand what the concerns are.
Much of the controversy surrounding the Burton-Conner murals is not about laws or principles — there is actually general agreement on that front. The controversy is about the inadequate communication between the students and the housemasters. That is what truly needs to be addressed.