Admissions Blog Post Removed At MIT’s Request

The ‘admissions blogs,’ weblogs sponsored by the MIT admissions office, have seen at least two entries removed within the past year. The first, relating to last spring’s Ring Committee flame war, was removed following requests from Admissions. The other, drawing criticism for what was deemed inappropriate content, was removed by the blogger. The student blogs are generally student-run and do not usually have content removed after it is initially posted.

The first post to be removed, written by sophomore Michael J. Snively, was posted in May 2008 and discussed a lengthy conversation across several dormitory mailing lists about the composition of the Class of 2011’s Ring Committee. Snively’s entry detailed the developing flame war, which arose when students discovered that the ring committee had no members from the east side of campus. The entry brought the discussion from the MIT campus to the public admissions front. It was removed at the request of the Admissions Office.

At a recent alumni conference, Schmill stated that blogs were not censored. In an interview, he clarified this statement by saying that beyond the flame war post, Admissions does not censor the blogs. Snively mentioned that Schmill was likely unaware of a second controversial post about breast cancer that was removed.

“It didn’t help the pre-frosh at all, it didn’t explain anything about MIT, and that’s why that was removed,” Snively said.

According to Stuart Schmill ’86, Dean of Admissions, the posting “was basically starting a flame war on our blogs, and we didn’t think [the blogs] were the most appropriate place for that flame war to occur.” Following the original entry’s removal, a follow-up post was made discussing the politics of Ring Committee, the mailing lists, and flame wars as a part of MIT culture.

The second controversial blog post, written by Snively in September, discussed breast cancer and the release of the computer game Spore. It was viewed as inappropriate to place the release of a computer game within the same frame as breast cancer, seen as a more serious topic. The post featured a mock up of a t-shirt with the phrase “I <heart> Boobs”, the heart replaced by a pink breast cancer ribbon. Many commenters said that the article was unfit for an admissions blogs and would be more suitable for a personal blog. Snively pulled the post on his own several hours after it initially appeared.

“A lot of people were upset that I mentioned breast cancer and Spore in the same post … there were too many upset people for not enough cause,” he said. Snively removed the post before Matthew L. McGann ’00, Associate Director of Admissions, asked him to review the post. Snively then took a week’s hiatus from blogging.

When the admissions blogging system was launched as “MITBlogs” in November 2004, it represented a pioneering attempt to bring more reality to the admissions landscape. Today, bloggers seem to be permitted to post even negative information about MIT as long as they show different sides of the Institute as it actually exists. Posts are made directly by the bloggeres, without any intermediate editing or approval by the admissions office, and revisions are made independently by the bloggers.

“There’s a lot of trust between admissions and us [the bloggers],” Snively said. “They’re trusting us not to post anything that is really, really bad.”

Schmill said that the blogs offer a unique look inside MIT. “We recognize that there will be and there have been things that the students say are not positive about their MIT experience. We’re not out there encouraging them to write negative things, but we accept it and it’s one thing that makes the blogs as valuable as they are,” said Schmill.