Letters to the Editor
Walk For Hunger Deserves Recognition
The Walk for Hunger group from Baker House did a great job raising money for a very worthy organization and they should rightly be commended for their charity, but I think it's a shame that The Tech made no mention at all of the many other students and affiliates of MIT who took part in the event. The other students and groups may not have made as large or as organized of an impact as the Baker House team, but I feel that The Tech could have at least made some acknowledgement that many diverse members of the MIT community put forth an admirable effort to help the cause.
Student Activity, Admin's Complacency
As the academic year draws to a close, one cannot help but reflect on the events of the past year. One issue that really stands out in my mind is the one regarding MIT's divestment from Sudan.
In early September 2006, after six states and over 25 universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and the entire University of California system, divested from Sudan in response to the genocide in Darfur, President Hockfield convened the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility to simply begin discussing MIT's potential divestment.
The MIT community sprang into action. As reported by The Tech, a divestment petition began the following month asking for Institute-wide divestment by December 31, 2006 and within a month garnered over 300 signatures, topping 500 by the year's end. Further, both student governments, the Graduate Student Council and Undergraduate Association, voted overwhelmingly in favor of Institute-wide targeted divestment by the new year. Besides engaging in merely symbolic measures, student groups also took an active interest on the topic, organizing three well attended lectures, as well as two photo exhibits, a movie screening and panel, and raising $2,000 in humanitarian aid for Darfur's refugees. Members of MIT Amnesty International even began a letter writing campaign which culminated with a face-to-face meeting with MIT's district congressional Representative Michael Capuano to discuss the unfolding crisis in Darfur. Even as you read this now, students are busy selling specially designed MIT Save Darfur T-shirts and wristbands in Lobby 10 to raise money for Darfur charities.
With such unprecedented activity at the student level, I beg to ask a simple question: President Hockfield, what have you done to address the genocide in Darfur?
[Editor's note: This letter was received before the release of MIT's statement on divestment. See page 1 for story.]
As a former participant in both diving and gymnastics, I was angered by the column written by Travis Johnson entitled "Diving, Gymnastics, Pistol, Rifle Should Not Be Called Sports" in the May 11 issue of The Tech. Although I don't have a problem with Johnson's criteria for sports, I do take issue with his application of these criteria to diving and gymnastics. Johnson claims that gymnastics and diving fail to meet his fourth criterion: "The outcome must be determined by the participants instead of an observer. Referees, officials, and judges must enforce the rules, but they can't decide the outcome." In gymnastics and diving the outcome is, in fact, determined by the participants. As an extreme example, consider a highly respected diver who trips on the board and falls on her face. As much as the judges may love her, they cannot and will not award her a high score for such a failed dive. This diver, the participant, determined the outcome. Johnson goes on to say that "games like diving, which can't easily remove judges from the equation, can become sports in my eyes — by adopting a publicly known scoring system." Here I argue that there is an objective scoring system in gymnastics and diving. For example a dive is scored out of ten based on the components of the dive: approach, takeoff, elevation, execution, and entry. The experienced eye can measure one dive's elevation, for example, by comparing it to the thousands of other dives it has seen and then assign it a numerical value that reflects how its elevation compares to other dives' elevations. The dive's score is then multiplied by its degree of difficulty, a standard value assigned to each type of dive, to get the final score for the dive. The only reason the scoring system is not publicly known is that the public has not bothered to learn it. The public's ignorance should not exclude gymnastics and diving from the category of sports as this is the fault of the public, not gymnastics and diving themselves.
Johnson's Argument Fundamentally Flawed
Travis Johnson's recent Tech article titled "Diving, Gymnastics, Pistol, Rifle Should Not Be Called Sports" displays a profound level of ignorance and immaturity. All of these sports require extraordinary skill and dedication to be proficient. In addition, gymnastics and diving require an incredible level of fitness. Johnson's arbitrarily and poorly thought out "rules" for what constitutes a sport are anachronistic. He wrote that any sport that requires an engine is in fact not a sport at all, but this is senseless. Under this logic, any sport requiring any piece of equipment is potentially not a sport. What is so special about an engine, versus, say, a hang-glider or even high-tech running shoes?
His article is also contradictory. Johnson states that competition and the thrill of victory are key factors of a sport — but I am sure that participants in these four sports are every bit as competitive as any other, and furthermore, rejoice just as much in victory as any other athlete. Therefore, are they not sports by his criteria? In fact, he even states that his definition of a sport is based primarily upon what is entertaining to him.
Since when did the participants in the sports he lists decide the outcome? Last time I checked, none of these sports are based on the television show "Survivor." Also, regarding his ignorance of the matter, diving does indeed have a well-documented, well-developed scoring system. Just because he is ignorant of that does not make diving a non-sport. With all due respect (which, admittedly, is not much), his assertion that spectators should be able to immediately know the outcome of a an event with perfect precision (such as a dive) is absurd. If the outcome of every event must be so obvious to him, then nothing is a sport, as every sport has uncertainty in measurement.
Finally, I am quite embarrassed and disappointed that The Tech editors have even allowed this garbage masquerading as journalism to be published. Have the standards sunk this low? This article is not only a complete disgrace to the MIT community, the Physical Education department and The Tech, but also an insult to athletes worldwide.
Johnson's Rules Have Little Significance
Your rules obviously fall short of your stated goal, as they eliminate at least three sports, diving, gymnastics, and rifle, where sacrificing the body is the only way to win. Ask Greg Louganis about that. Ask any serious gymnast why his or her growth has been stunted. And try rifle for a week.
I'll bet your back will never be the same again. What about the mental aspects of sports? Control, precision, clutch performance. Hitting the three-pointer with five seconds to spare. Having a great offhand set and then shooting all tens prone so you don't lose your rifle match (I bet that means nothing to you). Your rules serve no purpose.
Why Doesn't The Tech Cover Grad Events?
As seen in the May 11 issue, The Tech dedicates page after page for advertisements to keep building its monetary reserves and arbitrarily decides on what events deserve full-page coverage. The Dance Troupe performance is one example. It is unclear whether Tech insiders simply pick their personal favorites, but what about that GradGala of May 5 — the first ever ball for the students and by the students that was a smashing hit?
Does not this hugely successful event that brought together 700 graduate students from diverse backgrounds to mingle at Edgerton's reception and then experience a beautiful evening at the Park Plaza deserve even one line worth of mention? Needless to say, Senior Ball (also May 5) also found no place or mention, but the first ever Gala proves truly unique because it was organized with non-Institute funds despite early push back and will now be continued annually.
It is appalling to see how that largest student newspaper at MIT is also the most out of touch from major events that are significant for the 6000+ graduate student community. Several of us are quite disappointed with the failure of fair and relevant coverage by The Tech.
[Editor's Note: See the May 8 issue for photo coverage of Senior Ball. The Tech offered to send a photographer to Grad Gala, but was told by organizers that the event was already being photographed.]