Student Protest Letter — Sept. 24, 2007

What happened to “All tech men carry batteries?”

We, the undersigned, are concerned about MIT’s lack of support for students during recent events, even after the facts of a situation have become clear. Unfortunately, it seems that the Institute’s first and last reaction is to distance itself from members of its own community instead of attempting to diffuse misleading media hype. This trend is especially disturbing given that many of these students are the same ones that have been lauded for their creativity and innovation, qualities that are recognized and encouraged at MIT.

Clearly MIT is not, and should not be, under any obligation to provide legal defense for students in criminal matters; however, we believe that MIT should wait to understand a situation lest it issue a misleading comment or press release. If, for whatever reason, a misleading comment is issued, another statement should be released to correct it. Failure to take these steps can only cause falsehoods and misrepresentations to perpetuate themselves to the point where they are considered fact.

A recent example of MIT’s failure to support a member of its community occurred last Friday, on September 21st, when Star Simpson was arrested at Logan International Airport. We are particularly disturbed by the administration labeling her actions as “reckless,” without first speaking to her.

Furthermore, we now know with certainty that Star Simpson did not make a fake bomb nor did she go to Logan to perform a hoax. The idea that she acted maliciously is a gross distortion of actual events. Star built her LED name­tag to stand out during MIT’s annual career fair. Facts like these are crucial in understanding what actually happened, and once MIT discovers them it is obligated to issue a clarifying statement or press release.

To clarify, we are not criticizing the police’s immediate response to what they thought was a bomb threat. In that regard, they performed their jobs exactly as they should. What we are concerned about is that MIT failed to issue a timely response to explain the situation after everything had become clear.

Failure to issue corrective comments has undoubtedly hurt MIT’s reputation as well. Every article and report begins with the words “An MIT sophomore;” the front page of the Boston Herald ran an article on Sunday, September 23rd that had an acrostic with the letters MIT spelling out “More Idiotic Tricks.” By failing to issue additional statements, MIT allows sensationalist articles like these to tarnish its reputation.

We hope that in the future the Institute is more supportive of those who are a part of its community. Everyone knows that events are often misconstrued and distorted, and as a result MIT has an obligation to the members of its community to correct any falsehoods that may arise.