Open Letter to President Hockfield

I am a senior studying physics living at Senior House. I am writing you out of concern about the incident involving MIT sophomore Star A. Simpson ’10 at Logan airport on Friday. While I do not know Star personally, I do share the concerns of her friends and acquaintances here at Senior House — namely, that MIT has chosen not to be explicitly supportive of her at this time.

Despite the fact that many of the news reports are calling the circuit board an intentional “hoax device,” it is clear to me that Star’s intentions were entirely benign. Star’s own statement that the device was an artistic name tag for Career Fair and her complete cooperation with the authorities indicate that she had no intent of causing any trouble — she was simply going to the airport to meet her boyfriend.

I am appalled that MIT has failed to give Star its full support in this matter. The MIT News Office’s press release which stated “Ms. Simpson’s actions were reckless and understandably created alarm at the airport” is entirely misguided in its approach. Regardless of whether her actions were reasonable, naive, or even “reckless,” as the News Office put it, MIT has an obligation to its students — an obligation to give its students a high quality education, which includes helping students handle matters that might interfere with receiving such an education. Star is an upstanding member of the community and deserves MIT’s complete support in this matter, especially since this situation is a result of misunderstanding and not criminal intent. Particularly when all the facts were not in, it would have been prudent to gather information about the situation and talk directly to Star before issuing an unsupportive statement.

The notion that a small exposed circuit board and a handful of Play-Dou warrants deadly force is foolish given the thousands of large computer circuits which pass through airport security every day. Surely, MIT cannot be condoning the use of deadly force against an MIT student whose behavior may have been a bit eccentric but had no characteristics that were aggressive or dangerous.

I urge you to direct your public relations officials to alter the MIT position and take a strong stance of civility and rationality supporting Star Simpson. I urge you, as a highly respected leader, to support Star Simpson publicly so that you may regain the support of the MIT student body.