Last Friday evening, I joined my fellow members of the Class of 2016 as we came together to watch the unveiling of this year’s Brass Rat design. Before the doors even opened, we already had a class-bonding experience — waiting outside Kresge in freezing temperatures.
Seven p.m. had come and gone by the time Ring Committee finally let us in, herding us into two lines to enter the auditorium. Like the people in front of me, I grabbed a raffle ticket on the off chance that I might win a free ring (I didn’t), and went on my merry way to take a seat with my friends. At the time, I didn’t realize that some people would cheat and grab more than one raffle ticket. Later during the presentation, the committee members would raffle off entire rings and generous subsidies.
“They shouldn’t have given out the raffle tickets in big boxes - people were taking handfuls and tilting the odds in their favor for the not insignificant giveaways,” Clarissa M. Towle ’16 pointed out after the ceremony.
Having lined up only half an hour early, I decided to just go for the seats in the back section, as many blocks of seats in the front had already been taken. Although Ring Premiere hadn’t begun yet, the sorority chants and other raucous cheers already had.
At 7:30 p.m., RingComm Chair Patrick A. Lowe ’16 tried to start the ceremony, but was periodically drowned out by enthusiastic shouts from the audience. As each of the ten other members of RingComm came onto the stage, the volume increased even more as each fraternity or sorority cheered for their own members.
In the past, RingComm has been criticized for its exclusionary selection process.
“I would really like to see RingComm make a more concerted effort to recruit non-fraternity and non-sorority members,” said Michael Y. Cheung ‘16. “As it is right now, I don’t think 10 out of 11 members being affiliated is an ideal way of representing MIT’s diverse campus.”
RingComm presented the class shank first, followed by the seal shank, Boston skyline, Cambridge skyline, and Hacker’s Map. The most prominent feature of this year’s class shank was the depiction of the Greek goddess Athena, who was included both for her wisdom and as the namesake of our computing system.
As a childhood fan of Greek mythology, I especially enjoyed this inclusion, an apparent tradition. This year, Athena wore a shield with the MIT Police badge proudly imprinted on it, while her right hand was curled around a spear with her thumb pointing up – reminding us of the right-hand rule we all used in our GIR’s. Meanwhile, the three-headed dog Kerberos stood watch on the steps of Killian.
I missed a lot of these details the first time, as I couldn’t hear half of what was being said on the stage.
“Way too many people were drunk and obnoxious, but it was to be expected,” said Towle ’16 afterwards. “People really need to learn how to be quiet, though.”
In an email interview with The Tech, RingComm acknowledged the noise issue.
“Nothing is perfect, and there are always things that don’t go completely according to plan,” explained Lowe. “There are some things you just can’t plan for, like how excited the crowd was.”
Vice Chair Harini S. Suresh ’16 added, “I don’t think that diminishes the meaning of the event or the design in any way. We took on the task of designing the ring knowing very clearly how important and meaningful it is for our class. Receiving the Brass Rat is a milestone, and Premiere was our way of celebrating it with everyone.”
This year’s seal shank featured the Alchemist sculpture upholding MIT’s seal, with the words “punt” (to put off a pset) and “tool” (to work on a pset) hanging from his arms like Newton’s cradle. This image represented the precious balance between work and fun that MIT students keep. Later, some students expressed confusion over this feature on the Class of 2016 Facebook group, either because they didn’t know what punt and tool meant or didn’t understand the design.
“The execution of the PUNTOOL could have been better - I wouldn’t have known it was supposed to be a Newton’s cradle had they not said so, and it looks like the balls are hanging from the Alchemist’s armpits,” said Cheung.
The Boston skyline included a large “1” on the Prudential Center in commemoration of the One Fund that was created in the aftermath of the tragic events of the Boston Marathon, while the Cambridge skyline included a silhouette of Bexley Hall.
“I really liked the nods towards Officer Sean Collier and the victims of the Boston marathon bombing. It wouldn’t have been right if they weren’t there,” noted Towle.
Fellow classmate Cheung agreed, saying, “I thought Athena’s MIT Police Shield and the Boston Strong ball on the Green Building were really classy ways to memorialize the tragic events of last year.”
Soon, the presentation reached the ring’s most anticipated design: the bezel. As per tradition, a fake bezel with an intentionally “poor” design was presented first. The Class of 2016 beaver wore a party hat and held a slice of cake in reference to Tim the Beaver’s 100th celebration this year. Unfortunately for all of the Pokémon lovers out there, RingComm placed a Dragonite (the 149th Pokémon to parallel our 149th graduating class) on the joke bezel instead of the actual one.
While not everyone knew that the bezel was fake at first, most came to doubt the authenticity by the end.
“At first, I didn’t realize the bezel was fake when the beaver eating cake was revealed, but by the time the bezel included the tribute to the ongoing construction on campus, I realized the ring was fake,” explained Michael D. Belland ’16, who won a free ring for being first in line. “That brass rat was too cynical to be our actual class ring, and I just continued yelling out ‘Fake!’ after that.”
The last feature to be presented on the joke bezel was a wrecking ball for the beaver to swing on, referring to pop star Miley Cyrus’ viral song. If it wasn’t for the wrecking ball, I would have gladly taken the joke bezel just for the Dragonite.
Next came the fake Ring Delivery location – Harvard Yard. The picture of the location that showed up on the screen included a group of tourists taking pictures, to keep it realistic. Afterwards, the RingComm Chair left the stage, as if Ring Premiere was over.
After a few seconds of silence, Suresh walked up to the podium to call him back.
“Wait, Patrick, that bezel was almost as bad as the Class of 2015’s,” she stated, eliciting boos from the Class of 2015 RingComm on the balcony.
The actual bezel featured a beaver holding an Olympic torch in its right hand, since our class came in during 2012 and will graduate in 2016. In its left hand, the beaver held a disc with the Mayan calendar, celebrating our survival despite the ancient Mayan prophecy of the end of the world last December.
Other details on the bezel included a dalek from Dr. Who, a globe to represent diversity, and an MIT admissions tube. IHTFP was subtly engraved in the beaver’s tail.
Last but not least, the actual ring delivery location was revealed to be the State Room, located at the heart of Boston’s Financial District and at the top of a skyscraper.
Once the ceremony was over, there was a mad rush to get the free stuff on tables outside, which included commemorative T-shirts, shot glasses, and booklets explaining the design for everyone who couldn’t hear.
Admittedly, the excitement from the ceremony was infectious – I bought a ring the next day, receiving the $70 subsidy for being one of the earlier buyers. Judging by the lines, I know I wasn’t the only excited one.