Letters to the Editor

MIT Should Take Responsibility For Sodium Incident

As an alumna of MIT I am embarrassed and outraged at MIT’s “not me” behavior regarding the sodium drop and the injury of workers and damage to the river clean up boat. What kind of example is this administration setting for students by failing to compensate a struggling non-profit reeling from expenses incurred due to negligence with hazardous materials? I don’t accept this “you can’t prove it and you can’t make me” attitude from my nine-year-old — why should I think it appropriate from an institution supposedly run by adults?

When I was at MIT in the late 1980s, the filth in the river was horrendous. We frequently rowed through rafts of debris and garbage that concentrated as one moved upstream. The general lack of cleanliness of the river and the area in general was very off-putting to prospective freshmen and their families. For the last few years, the “future of MIT” has encountered a much cleaner river during campus visits, one that makes MIT more welcoming. MIT shouldn’t just compensate those who were injured by this “mystery” sodium; MIT and Harvard and BU and Emerson should be bankrolling the entire cleanup effort on a regular basis!

Institute Has Duty To Keep Charles Safe

The connection to an MIT tradition may not have been entirely proven, but I would like to join a fellow alumnus who 10 years ago called for the abolition of this destructive and unnecessary custom (http://www-tech.mit.edu/V117/N39/halle.39l.html). He is right, even more so now than at the time. Millions of dollars have been spent in a large scale effort to restore the ecological health of the Charles River and it is now considered swimmable most summer days. MIT has actively participated in these efforts and there is even talk that the required swimming test some day may be held in the Charles, all of which makes it even more curious that the Institute has not done anything about the annual sodium drop. Yes, it looks fun. But surely our students, who I hope are much more environmentally educated and conscious than previous generations, can create new traditions that don’t spoil the beautiful natural resource right in our backyard?

The future of Tom McNichol’s Charles River Cleanup Boat is now uncertain, as the volunteer organization may not have the financial resources to repair the damage to the boat. Whether the connection between the sodium drop and this incident is proven beyond doubt or not, I believe that it is MIT’s responsibility to pay for the damage and to ensure that the Charles River continues to benefit from the service provided by the clean-up boat. It is impossible to compensate the volunteers for their injuries, but the least an institution like MIT can do is ban any further littering and compensate the Charles River Clean-Up Boat for the damage done. It’s a drop in the bucket for the Institute and not doing it would have a significant impact on the health and aesthetics of the Charles River and, for whatever it’s worth, would lower my respect for this truly amazing institution of learning.