Letters to the Editor

Decisions are Hard, Let’s Go to an All You Can Eat Dining Hall

This letter is in response to Kevin Wang’s March 4, 2008 column, “Not Even Fit For a Last Meal”:

After years of coddling and spoon-feeding by helicopter parents, it’s no great surprise that MIT students are overwhelmed by their newfound freedoms upon arriving in Cambridge.

All-you-can-eat dining halls seem like a pretty sweet idea. As we all know, as the volume of food increases, so does quality — or maybe I have that backwards? I can’t seem to remember; perhaps I’ve been letting adults think for me too long.

Man, its so hard when I have to make decisions about where to eat, especially lunch! It sucks that I might have to decide between Middle-Eastern or Japanese cuisine, when at any other school I could just go get a plate full of the all-American meat and potatoes of the day. I would definitely sit down to eat a 6-course meal during my lunch break THAT DOESN’T EXIST. Huh, maybe all those options are scattered around campus so I can grab food when I can, instead of picking leaves off the trees in the Stata Amphitheater. It’s almost as if all those options are actually meant to cater to busy student schedules!

And dude, those kitchens are so annoying. I don’t use them, so clearly nobody else does either. Oh, there are entire floor cultures based around cooking? That’s weird. Well, the fact that I could pay triple in an AYCE dining hall what I would pay for ingredients myself is clear proof that dining hall food is better, right? I really like waiting in line a half-hour for a plate of heat-lamped pasta. It makes me hungrier and the food tastier, which is a good thing, because it might not be edible I weren’t famished. And then there are those pesky decisions I would have to make for myself, not to mention learning time management. It just doesn’t make sense that I have to prepare myself for the real world, when I plan on living with my parents forever.

Perhaps some class in the distant future will be able to enjoy having no choices, but for now, I’m happy with having diverse and disjointed food options. So throw in a big centralized AYCE dining hall, but don’t wipe out my alternatives in the meantime, thank you.

Tech’s Suicide Implications Inappropriate

The Tech should apologize for its blatant front-page suggestions that the death of Robert M. Wells ’08 was a suicide. With no evidence, they make implications that compound the suffering of Mr. Wells’s friends and family. The facts of such tragedies are determined by licensed professionals, and The Tech can report on these facts when available. In the interim, instead of wild speculations, they should stick to publishing the facts and perhaps the thoughts of the people who actually knew Mr. Wells (all of whom seem to agree that this was an unfortunate accident).

Editor’s Note: After careful consideration, The Tech decided to investigate substantial concerns, including some from Wells’s friends, that Wells’s death was a suicide. The Tech’s reporting balanced the thoughts of those who knew Wells best — his friends and fraternity brothers — with Wells’s own writings.

Calling for a Technocracy

Being a laissez-faire student activist for almost five years at MIT, I’ve come to notice a disturbing trend from the MIT administration. This statement is nothing new to regular readers of The Tech, but the seriousness of the issue calls for repetition.

It’s clear that MIT’s administration is operating with unchecked authority. Senior administrators are able to create unwarranted flag policies that contradict existing fire codes, enforce mandatory meal plans for our dining halls, and evict students from graduate dorms on their own volition. More disturbing is the opacity of the administration. The Green Hall eviction came as a huge surprise to the residents who were suddenly forced to move into a more expensive dorm, further away from campus, with smaller rooms and hardly any common spaces. The administration is also reluctant and slow to release data to students investigating administrative operations.

Administrative inefficiency and incompetency have also led to many poor policy decisions. The 2007 Baker House Dining Report revealed a remarkably unprofitable business that MIT Dining claimed as a huge success. Why are we building a new dining hall no more than 100 feet away from two other ones operating with $500,000 in losses each year? Does anyone else wonder why MIT Housing must continually raise rental rates even though they are not subject to property taxes and are guaranteed a full set of residents? It must be the outrageous cable rates (without ESPN). Isn’t it time that the administration operate under a meritocracy like the rest of MIT?

Most disenchanting is the MIT administration’s propensity to disregard Student, Alumni, and Faculty (SAF) input. Many administrative decisions are dishonestly and arrogantly explained only after being made. MIT community input is vital to the Institute’s well being and is not something you can put a bandage on with an after-the-fact blue-ribbon committee. A lack of input leads to the erosion of MIT’s culture. Numerous articles have discussed the administration’s hypocritical stance on hacking, praising it as a defining piece of MIT culture, yet taking students to court for their involvement in hacks. The administration is able to get away with ludicrous polices because of student turnover and lack of Institutional memory. I want to emphasize that this is alarmingly disrespectful to students. After boasting that the world’s future leaders are on MIT’s campus, to ignore their sentiments when making decisions that affect them is either extremely hypocritical or just plain dumb. Why would students join the W1 committee when their votes will be outnumbered by the committee’s administrators?

It’s time to start solving these problems with a community driven, 21st Century adaptation of democracy, or “technocracy.”

There must be administrative transparency and metrics for success. All substantial administrative initiatives must have a clearly defined objective, set of goals, measures for success, and an estimated cost made public to the MIT community. This will lead to well-reasoned, fairly-debated policy initiatives. Checks and balances must exist so that any proposition can be acted upon by the administration if and only if it has received majority support from affected constituents; all SAF would have the opportunity to vote on a proposed action. Increasing SAF involvement in the community would force the administration to abide by majority interests. SAF would also have the ability to petition the administration to revoke and revise policies. A public forum should be available for any member of the MIT community to voice their complaints, which administrators must respond to. There should be greater organizational clarity and accountability, making MIT staff and administrators readily accessible by SAF and ultimately responsible for their actions. Finally, we should look within MIT for answers. Have classes focus on improving MIT society: creating the opportunity for student involved policy analysis would be both educationally and institutionally beneficial.

This type of governance system could be implemented with technological voting tools and the Internet, and set MIT apart from peer institutions by giving students the ability to actively participate in the way MIT is run. It would increase community activism and help make effective, well-thought policy decisions that everyone could understand. Alumni would have more pride, be more involved, and be more willing to donate to the Institute. MIT’s culture could be preserved and who better than MIT to technologically advance government?

Be proactive and experience technocracy at: http://technocracy.mit.edu/