Letters to the Editor
Publishing East Campus Entries Was Irresponsible
We are writing to express our deep concern about the offensive materials that appeared in The Tech during REX in the orientation schedule you published. The right of free speech makes such publication legal, but having the right to publish something does not mean that it is responsible to do so. This is particularly the case when the material offends large segments of our community.
Specifically, the descriptions of events scheduled at East Campus were patently obscene and purposeless. It demeaned women within and outside the East Campus community with language and sexual crudeness that might make even the most open-minded individual cringe.
We understand that each dormitory was allowed to submit whatever descriptions of events they chose to, but that does not in any way absolve you, the editors, from exercising good judgment about the content of the paper you edit. Ultimately, it’s your names on the masthead, and it’s your responsibility to sustain The Tech’s tradition of responsible communications with the MIT community.
We urge you to remove or redact the offensive materials from the online version of The Tech and to take whatever editorial measures are necessary to avoid such materials from being published in the future.
Chris Colombo, Dean for Student Life
Daniel E. Hastings ’78, Dean for Undergraduate Education
Steven R. Lerman ’72, Vice Chancellor and
Dean for Graduate Education
The Tech’s Responsibilities
Ms. Klein’s letter to the editor on Friday, September 4th, details her complaint with the East Campus Daily Confusion entries. Specifically, she states that it was the MIT Tech’s responsibility to censor the offending entries.
The Tech’s responsibility is to serve the interests of the MIT Community by reporting ongoing happenings through impartial observance and investigative journalism. It is financially independent of MIT and not bound to anyone’s interests except those of the community it serves. Given that, Ms. Klein’s argument that The Tech shouldn’t have printed the statements may appear to hold water since the community as a whole suffers when there are oppressive social forces.
However, I would argue that it would be more socially oppressive if The Tech censored campus representation. In that case, there would be concerns of trust in the newspaper’s ability to report fairly and honestly. And more importantly, there would be concerns that any student, professor, administrator, dorm, etc., could be misrepresented in The Tech as something they are not. This mistake cannot be made if The Tech maintains its duty to report accurately what MIT representatives say.
This is not to say that this argument is true for every party. Specifically, it doesn’t hold for parties that aren’t MIT affiliated. But in a very extreme example, say an MIT student group — let’s call it the MIT-KKK — decided that they wanted to express their irrational hatred of another group and held a rally. It would be dishonest for The Tech to not report this in proper and full detail to the MIT Community. It is not The Tech’s responsibility to “know better.” Rather, it is the community’s responsibility to properly address such concerns. This is key. Whatever anecdotal experiences or terrible moral feelings anyone may have about possibly offensive speech, it is important to understand that the all-important freedom of speech, which is more important than feelings, has its repercussions. Rather than censor, it is vital that instead the community at large naturally decides and rebels against what it deems improper.
This process is so important because perhaps the community as a whole doesn’t think that the East Campus Daily Confusion entries were reprehensible, misogynistic, or violent. We don’t know. Anecdotal outrage is just as reliable as anecdotal amusement, which I have come across plentifully in regards to the entries.
The East Campus representatives chose to present the dorm this way. They made a decision to submit what some may think of as offensive probably not just to attract attention to the dorm, but also to specifically repel people who are offended by these statements. That decision contributed to the new East Campus class. They are people who are likely not offended by these, well, words. They are people who understand that these words are not meant to imply objectification of women. They also understand that it’s absolutely ok to say “fucking hot jesus titty fucking christ” without offending a reasonable conservative Christian, because my saying that should not adjust your faith. At the very most, it should adjust your opinion of me. If we are going to restrict East Campus’s right to say that, then we may as well also force it to remove the ceiling mural of Muhammad on the third floor.
On a final note, it’s worth noting that the new class of freshman in East Campus is less than 40 percent female. Maybe that’s fallout from the Daily Confusion and East Campus’s unoriginal submissions will affect the dormitory for the next year. But regardless, even if East Campus’ own entries proved detrimental, The Tech had no duty to shield the dorm from itself, but rather had an interest in reporting legitimate representative comments. By printing the submissions, I applaud The Tech for understanding where its moral and ethical responsibilities really lie.
Undergraduate Association Judicial Chair
Dormitory Council Judicial Chair
If You’re Easily Offended, Stop Reading
Dear Ms. Klein,
I am writing on behalf of the Dormitory Council (DormCon), the student government body that represents undergraduate dorms that have a functioning student government on campus. I am writing in response to your letter in The Tech last Friday entitled “‘Tech’ Should Not Have Printed EC Daily Confusion Entries.” Now I am not aware if you were writing representing yourself, a group of concerned co-workers, the Dean for Undergraduate Education or the MIT Administration, but I will attempt to address your concerns as they pertain to DormCon and Dorm Residence Exploration (REX) in general.
DormCon is very proud to be the umbrella organization for the aforementioned undergraduate dormitories on campus. We meet once every two weeks, discuss issues that are of concern to dorms and dorm residents, and attempt to bridge the gap between the individual dormitory executives and the administration. Our meetings are usually entertaining, often productive and generally useful. Every year we organize REX for incoming freshmen, and we like to think that it is a fun experience for all freshmen.
As for the Daily Confusion, its submissions represent individual dorms and their rush activities. The individual dormitory REX chairs are given their own username and password to submit their content. DormCon does not oversee or check the submissions or provide any guidelines for submission. We just try to ensure that as many dorms as possible get their submissions in by the set deadline, in order to provide freshmen with a broader platform on which to base their explorations. DormCon has no intent on regulating these events in the future nor does it see a necessity to do so. Each dorm has its own individual character, a fact that you, working in an undergraduate Dean’s office, should know well by now.
That being said, I would like to address your platform on a more personal level, purely representing myself, a member of the MIT undergraduate community and a dorm resident in my fourth and final year at MIT. If you have indeed read all these entries in the Daily Confusion, you will notice that one of the first entries submitted by EC was: “12:00—EAsT camPUS—If you’re easily offended, STOP READING NOW.” Need I go on?
To give some more evidence that your claims were a bit out of context, your quote referencing “raping a village” was merely referring to the fact that EC had a “motherfucking viking boat” in their courtyard. If you had read past the items that offended you or, more importantly, actually attended the event, perhaps you would reserve judgment. None of the EC events were actually intended to harass anyone, as MIT has a strict anti-hazing policy that the vast majority of dorms comply with. Again, I would like to remind you that every dorm has its own character, but dorm REX is not intended to insult, harass or injure freshmen. I am completely certain that the EC REX Chairs did not intend for that at all in planning their events.
Ms. Klein, as Communications Manager for the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education, you more than anyone must know that you should proofread what you publish, and that the way you communicate your intentions is often more important than what you intend to accomplish. You must also understand, however, that descriptions can be deceiving, and satirical humor, pop culture references (such as the “titty fucking” reference, a Team America phrase) are just some of the ways REX Chairs intend to reach out to freshmen. If EC wants to advertise a specific type of dorm culture to incoming freshmen, I personally believe that they should be able to advertise that in the same way that Baker House advertises itself as “the most social dorm on campus.” I chose to live in Baker House but still put EC among my top four choices in the housing lottery; the cultures may seem radically different to you from their event descriptions in the Daily Confusion, and they are located on opposite ends of campus, but their goal was to attract freshmen to their respective events through advertising in the Daily Confusion. If EC’s methods were to bombard the “Confusion” with what many will agree is crude humor, so be it. I am not even American, but I know that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are among the two most important principles in this country, and if you are offended by something you read, you can put down the paper and stop reading, especially if you are warned beforehand. I encourage you to e-mail me personally if you have any questions, comments or concerns, and I would like to thank you for your letter and for expressing your opinion, one that I understand is shared by others.
Dormitory Council President
East Campus Daily Confusion Entries Reflect Unique Dorm Culture
Reading The Tech from September 4, I was thoroughly offended by the letter to the editor from Anna Babbi Klein. I’m offended that she would suggest that The Tech censor Daily Confusion submissions, thus not only infringing upon students’ First Amendment rights, but also destroying the sense of dormitory diversity that the Daily Confusion offers as a tool to students.
As REX VP for the 2009 Residence Exploration period, a Senior House resident and REX Chair, I saw nothing wrong with what East Campus submitted. The point of REX is to allow students to find a place where they fit in and a place that they can call home for four years. Students need to live somewhere they will be appreciated, liked, cared about, and accepted. The best way to find out what someone is like is through humor. When you find out what someone laughs at, you find out who they are.
Did I laugh at EC’s Daily Confusion events? Yes, I did. I also laughed at the Senior House event “Ever Heard of the Donkey Punch? @ Proper Hardcore. I’m Hardcore.” I laughed really hard. We all laughed: men, women, children and cats. The freshmen that are living at Senior House that I’ve talked to also laughed, which is the point. We want people who live with us to share our sense of humor. We want people who live here not to go and cry “harassment” if someone says something slightly off-color.
REX is a time when dorms should fly the darkest and most extreme of their colors. REX is the time when dorms should push things to the limit and then see if people still like them. In places like East Campus and Senior House where everyone is tolerated and accepted, we also accept people with alternative senses of humor. If freshmen found the Daily Confusion offensive and decided not to live on the East side of campus, then we accomplished our goal. See how the filter works?
By allowing dorms to submit whatever they wish for the Daily Confusion we are ensuring that freshmen remain happy and content with where they choose to live. It is necessary that freshmen understand the true nature of the dorms. If frosh can deal with the place during REX, they’ll feel even better during term.
Additionally, if REX events were censored by a group that was not the REX chairs of a dorm, I would feel harassed. According to MIT’s Community Standards:
“Harassment is any conduct, verbal or physical, on or off campus, that has the intent or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s or group’s educational or work performance at MIT or that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive education, work, or living environment.”
Censoring my art and censoring my free speech would affect my work as a REX chair and as a student because I would feel intimidated by the Institute. I would feel that the environment in which I was working had become hostile and offensive towards me. In fact, now that I think about it, Anna Babbi Klein’s letter seemed pretty hostile…
Dormitory Council Residence Exploration Vice President