Candidates Vie For Prize of Big Screw in Annual Contest

The annual Big Screw contest, a charity fundraiser sponsored by Alpha Phi Omega, began this Monday and will continue through Friday.

"The main purpose of Big Screw is to raise money for charity, but [it] also has added the bonus of bringing the greater MIT community together," said Sarah C. Hopp '08, the service vice president of APO. "The winner is awarded a four foot, left-handed aluminum wood screw that they have the honor of keeping until the next year's Big Screw." Professor of Mechanical Engineering John G. Brisson II, last year's winner, will pass the screw to the 2007 champion.

APO will be accepting monetary votes this week for members of the MIT community that deserve a big screw.

"Though one penny equals one vote, people have been known to put in rolls of $20 bills for candidates who really screwed them somehow," Hopp said.

Michael D. Ernst, who teaches the Laboratory in Software Engineering (6.170) and is an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, had the highest earnings yesterday — $202.75. He is donating to the St. Mark Community Education Program.

"I think it's fantastic!" said nominee Professor Christopher C. Cummins of the department of chemistry, who was also nominated a few years ago. "It is difficult to get recognition in MIT, and this is one way to get it."

Physics Professor Krishna Rajagopal said, "I take it as a compliment and in the good spirit that this competition is intended. … I'm glad my students thought my class was challenging."

Maureen R. Lynch, the course administrator for 2.007, was initially shocked at her nomination, but then felt honored as "there haven't been many support staff people nominated before."

"I am five feet tall, but the award is four feet! … If I do win, I will need some help carrying it!" Lynch added.

Money raised by each candidate goes to the charity he or she represents. This year's charities include education programs and homeless shelters, among others.

Emery N. Brown, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, is representing the Codman Academy. "This particular school is a charter school in Rochester that creates real educational opportunities for underprivileged students who really need it. A lot of shootings have taken place there, and this is a great way to contribute to people who really need it," Brown said.

"Professors have been known to go pretty far in their campaigning" in order to screw students, Hopp said. "One year a candidate professor gave a lecture entirely in French even though he wasn't teaching a language class."

APO has been contacting nominees suggested by students since the beginning of last week and will continue through this week. When nominations are received, APO members contact the nominees who may accept or decline their nomination.

Voting will occur Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday in Lobby 10, and Wednesday in W20.

"Running as an official candidate is voluntary and only official candidates can be given donations because we want this to be fun for the contestants and not mean-spirited. The nominees choose their own charity, and we try to put as few restrictions on the charity as possible," Hopp said.

The Big Screw, previously called "the Institute Screw," started as a Spring version of APO's older fundraiser called Ugliest Man on Campus, which has now evolved into its own event, Hopp said. The first Institute Screw was held in 1967 and the winner was Mathematics Professor Arthur P. Mattuck, who is still teaching at the Institute today.