The Tech’s Summer News Recap

All the Things You May Have Missed in Your Months Away From Boston


The co-editor of Counterpoint announced that the monthly magazine which aimed to chronicle campus life at MIT and Wellesley College will resume publication in the fall as a Wellesley-only publication. “We will be temporarily abandoning the partnership that was forged 16 years ago between our two institutions of higher interest due to dwindling MIT interest and participation and, more pressingly, because our long-serving MIT co-Editor-in-Chief is graduating, with no one standing to take his place,” wrote co-editor Kristina Costa, a Wellesley junior.

The first meeting of the Task Force on Student Engagement, which includes students, faculty, and administrators, took place in early May. The task force was established by students and administrators as part of a new effort to address student concerns about faculty and administrative support for students and student involvement in Institute decisions. Those concerns were provoked by recent administrative actions such as the presentation of NW35 to the MIT community, the conversion of Green Hall from graduate to undergraduate housing, the response to Star A. Simpson’s ’10 arrest at Logan Airport, and the response to three students’ arrests at the MIT Faculty Club.


Over 2,500 degrees were awarded to about 2,300 students at MIT’s 142nd Commencement on Friday, June 6. Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his development of microlending and for his work in alleviating global poverty, addressed the graduates. Yunus spoke about his own experiences in building the Grameen Bank in Bangaladesh and urged graduates to spend time “making the world a better place.”

Graduate student Michael P. Short was arrested and charged with two felony charges after MIT Police found him, Harold S. Barnard G, and Brandeis University graduate student Marina Dang in the basement of NW16 late just before midnight on June 7. The charges were dropped in July after the prosecution filed a motion stating that dropping the charges is “in the interests of justice as discipline proceedings will be conducted by the MIT internal discipline board.” The incident was reminiscent of the felony charges filed against three hackers found exploring the Faculty Club in October 2006.

An MIT graduate student was injured on June 11 in a small lab explosion in Building 16. The explosion occurred after an experiment in room 16-276 had an exothermic reaction, injuring the student’s hands and arms. The injuries were not life-threatening, though the student was taken to a local hospital. The room is part of Professor Angela Belcher’s lab.

Institute Professor Robert S. Langer ScD ’74 won the Millenium Technology Prize, the world’s largest award for technology innovation. Langer won the 800,000 euro prize (about $1.1 million) “for his inventions and development of innovative biomaterials for controlled drug release and tissue regeneration that have saved and improved the lives of millions of people,” wrote Technology Academy Finland, the organization that gives the award.

Student groups were billed $27,000 in unexpected charges for phones and network, covering the fiscal year from July 2007 to June 2008. The charges, posted to student groups’ accounts on June 23, were a result of changes to the billing model for phones and network that Information Services and Technology put into place in June 2007. The MIT administration has agreed to cover the charges this year, but plans for who would pay similar charges next year remain uncertain.


A pipe burst at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house, causing severe water damage. MIT Housing has provided emergency accommodations for most ATO members in MacGregor House suite lounges, which have been converted into doubles, while the ATO house undergoes repairs. Summer residents of the fraternity were placed in vacant rooms in Next House and a Boston-side fraternity after the water damage occurred.


The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority obtained a temporary restraining order against three MIT students to prevent them from making a presentation that would show how anyone with a magnetic card writer can ride the Boston subway for free. An emergency court order prevented Zackary M. Anderson ’09, Russell J. Ryan ’09, and Alessandro Chiesa ’09 from presenting their work as scheduled at the annual hacker convention DEF CON in Las Vegas on Aug. 10. Details sufficient to repeat the attack were published in open court documents by the MBTA in its request for the restraining order. A federal judge later dissolved the gag order against the students, whose legal counsel, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the decision a victory for free speech and a sign that a federal state does not prohibit talking about security vulnerabilities.

Costantino “Chris” Colombo, previously dean for student affairs at Columbia University’s undergraduate schools, took over as Dean for Student Life on Aug. 18. Colombo replaces Larry G. Benedict, who has held the dean for student life position since its inception in 2000. Columbo will live in Next House with his family in the vacant housemasters’ apartment.

The graduate student dental plan opened for sign-up on Aug. 24, with a deadline for enrollment of Sept. 15, at This is the first year that graduate students will be able to purchase basic dental insurance through MIT. The plan charges a fixed annual fee and covers cleaning and checkups by in-network dentists.

Free transit passes were available for employees as part of a series of new commuting options being offered this year by MIT. About 700 Institute employees signed up for the passes, including 12 who potentially signed up to get monthly T passes, which are available at a 50 percent discount. Environmental impact and the growing MIT community are cited as reasons for the changes in commuting options, which include an increase in MBTA commuter rail subsidies and free transit passes for September for employees who park at MIT five days a week.

The Coop launched a Web site which allows students to view textbook information online without visiting its store in Kendall Square. The site,, launched on Aug. 24 and allows students to view information such as the titles, authors, publishers, and editions of textbooks for the upcoming Fall 2008 semester, though it does not provide ISBN numbers or cover pictures. Students may order their books online for in-store pick-up or opt to have them shipped.

Compiled by Arkajit Dey, Natasha Plotkin, and Marissa Vogt.