Letters to the Editor

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: The May 11 letter, “Please Do Not Water Down an MIT Education,” mentioned that “Several years ago MIT halved its core physics and math requirement from two years to one year.” This happened more than 40 years ago in 1964.

‘On Broadway’ Review Inaccurate

It was unfortunate to read such a miscalculated review of “On Broadway” in the May 4 edition of The Tech. It is clear that Alice MacDonald ’08 must have departed the film early and did not realize that the voiceover narration and flashback were only within the first two minutes of the film. Moreover, she states the film looked crappy due to it being shot on digital — clearly mistaken, as it was shot on film. Lastly, Alice states that the writing was rigid. Fair enough. But I find Dave McLaughlin’s writing to come from a place of honesty which isn’t seen in these wannabe hipster films that are so often hyped or seen at festivals. Stories are what seem to be missing, not some clown in hipster clothes and haircuts speaking nonsense. Go rent a John Cassavetes film!

Producer, “On Broadway”

Please Do Not Water Down An MIT Education

Several years ago MIT halved its core physics and math requirement from two years to one year. Now a faculty task force has proposed to further reduce the physics requirement to one semester. The task force has violated the Lewis principle of emphasis on fundamental concepts. If the faculty continues to water down the undergraduate curriculum, MIT graduates will be less successful in competing for jobs and admission to graduate school than engineering graduates of other schools which offer a more comprehensive foundation in engineering science.

The faculty task force should seek input from MIT alumni and from people outside MIT in industry and at other universities. Furthermore, the task force should examine the list of topics included on the national Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam administered by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). All MIT engineering seniors and graduate students should be encouraged to take the FE exam, the first step toward license as a Professional Engineer (P.E.).

Cohen Suggests Far-fetched Changes

Jeffrey S. Cohen ’06, responding to my opinion article [Friday, April 27, 2007] calling for our government to shut down the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, writes at length about all the various ways that the threat terrorists pose to society are different than those our country has faced before, and so the critically important change we must make is not closing Guantanamo but changing our laws to address this new threat. There are two problems with this argument, one practical and the other more philosophical.

Practically speaking, someone who wants to see our laws reformed in response to the threat posed by terrorists should be even more dedicated to closing Guantanamo. As it stands, the legal black hole that Guantanamo has become is obstructing the process of genuine reform because it gives the executive a carte blanche to do whatever it wants to detainees. The executive is then left with no incentive to go to Congress and push it to bring the process of trying terrorism suspects on a firm constitutional footing that at least respects traditional notions of habeas corpus (which was eliminated by the Military Commissions Act of 2006). As it stands, Congress is likely to first go back and undo the damage inflicted by the administration and its collaborators in the 109th Congress and only afterward take up the issue of reasonable reform in response to terrorism. Closing Guantanamo will force Congress to speed up its deliberations on how to reform our laws.

The second problem I have with the argument Cohen makes is the scale of the changes he is defending. While it is obvious that the threat posed by terrorists is different from those once posed by the Soviet nuclear arsenal, it is unclear to me that the terrorist threat is at all as dangerous as the nuclear threat. In fact I cannot understand how terrorism can possibly pose the kind of existential threat once posed by nuclear warfare between our country and the Soviets. So how is it that the terrorist threat is forcing us to change our laws so that habeas corpus can be suspended by a single individual with no oversight when the existential threat of nuclear warfare did not? I can understand some changes to the law in response to a heightened risk from terrorism, but I will never understand the gross violations to the spirit of our laws that Cohen is defending by siding with the administration’s view that the fight we’re currently engaged in necessitates a complete restructuring of 800 years of common law jurisprudence. It may be a different kind of war, but it’s not different enough to go back to a pre-1215 legal framework.