Letters to the Editor

Glaring Errors in Year in Review Article

Your February 5, 2008 Year in Review issue contained glaring errors in the section about the death of Daniel Barclay ’07, in sharp contrast to your newspaper’s usually-high standard for reporting.

Your article incorrectly implies that Daniel’s parents are blaming MIT for his death. This is not true. MIT had nothing to do with his death, which occurred when his small boat was accidentally swept out to sea.

After he was reported missing, due to privacy concerns, MIT blocked attempts to search his room and obtain his e-mail records — but he was already dead, so this obviously did not contribute to Daniel’s death. It did, however, contribute immeasurably to the distress that his family and friends were going through while searching for him. MIT’s administration could have helped the family and the MIT Police with their search, but instead chose to obstruct it.

Your article further erred by stating that his parents and friends broke into his room, and also incorrectly reported that his family needed to get court orders to view his records. Nobody ever asked for or received any court orders. The MIT IS&T department required the MIT Police to provide a subpoena to access Daniel’s Athena files, and Daniel’s parents subpoenaed his cell phone records.

Your article did get one item correct — the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is currently reviewing an appeal for Daniel’s manner of death. We are still awaiting an answer from them, and hope that your blatant disregard for the facts in this article does not undermine this effort.

Finally, your reporter failed to perform even the most basic fact-checking. A simple check of the online MIT alumni database would have revealed that Daniel’s mother graduated in 1978, not 1950 as reported in your article. This would have been quite a feat, since in 1950 she hadn’t been born yet.

So that something good can come of this tragedy, and based on what we have heard from the parents of other college students, we strongly recommend to all MIT students the following: write a formal permission letter (and get your signature witnessed) so in the event of an emergency, your parents can search your room, your electronic records, access your medical records, and can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. Most states have Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care forms that you can download and print out.

Parents of Daniel J. Barclay ’07

Editor’s Note:

The Tech issued a correction to “The Institute in National, Local News,” on Feb. 8. Kayton does not allege that Barclay’s death could have been avoided had MIT allowed her access to Barclay’s room and property. Additionally, because of an editing error, the article incorrectly identified Kayton as a member of the class of 1950.

But The Tech stands by its original reporting on the death of Daniel J. Barclay ’07 and on Kayton’s search for her son. Kayton did break into her son’s room after his disappearance, and friends of Barclay did help her search the room for information regarding his disappearance, she told The Tech.

Though Kayton writes she did not need to get court orders to view Barclay’s files and that “nobody ever asked for or received any court orders,” this is misleading. According to reporting by The Tech and The Wall Street Journal, Kayton said she subpoenaed — without a judge’s signature — Barclay’s cell phone records. Kayton was told that she needed a subpoena to obtain Barclay’s Athena files, and she sent a California subpoena (also not signed by a judge) to MIT, she told the Journal. The subpoena was rejected, and another subpoena was filed by the MIT Police through the Cambridge district attorney, according to the Journal.