What’s so bad about an online ring premiere?

Focus on the Brass Rat, not its presentation

Future Ring Committees should stop it with the elaborate fake rings and special guests at Premiere and focus more on their core task: designing a ring to represent their class to be revealed at Premiere. Along with that comes the prerequisite that they keep the ring design controlled and only release it when they are ready to. Until they can execute their basic, fundamental jobs correctly, they should drop the frivolities.

I have confidence that this year’s RingComm did not intend to have their design find its way via Google Docs onto three dorm discussion lists. The tone of their follow up e-mail and the expressions on the members’ faces when I talked to them after the leak belied that things didn’t go as planned. The efforts they made to secure the ring design were reasonable, and unlike members of the Class of 2009 RingComm, they learned not to use Athena to collaborate and share their design.

But ultimately, their efforts failed, and it’s disappointing that the committee did not publicly address this failure throughout the entirety of Premiere or afterwards, even if only to say: “We messed up and we apologize for it.”

Of course, the Ring Committee still dictated the main features of Premiere and the 2012 Brass Rat itself. They were the ones who made the design decisions and determined the concepts, events, and ideals emblazoned in the cast gold. They controlled the official Premiere, which despite the leak, remained the venue that first unveiled the design to a substantial number, perhaps a majority, of the sophomore class.

Future classes should learn from these overlying design choices. Their Ring Committees should more closely follow their given mission and “design a ring that will inspire us while we are here, unite us once we leave, and, above all else, unmistakably symbolize the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Not an easy task, to be sure, when “us” is a class of over a thousand students.

Still, this year’s RingComm shows some examples of what not to do. Most obnoxious are the frequent references to global events with at best tangential connections to the Institute, let alone 2012. Flames on the Class Shank alluding to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games may be interesting, but as RingComm acknowledged at premiere, none of us are Olympic athletes. Every fourth class at the Institute has the same relationship to the Games. Why then, are they included on our ring?

Even the beaver, the stalwart of the bezel, faces the opposite direction this year, supposedly looking “toward Boston, which embodies the rest of the world.”

MIT’s success does not stem from the rest of the world; like the Athenian owl on the seal shank, we shape the world in ways we choose. Often, our way of doing things conflicts with what is acceptable for the broader world. Hence, concrete “bombs” in public locations make poor hacks and LEDs are not acceptable attire in Logan airport. The Ring Committee conflates the diverse background of MIT students with the public relations goal of making MIT appeal to the masses. The former is a byproduct of an admissions process that places an emphasis on meritocratic potential. The latter is an unavoidable consequence of being physically situated in a part of that broader world which dislikes sodium in their river and maintains that students cannot officially accept greater liability in exchange for fewer restrictions on their behavior. Why does an MIT 2012 Ring celebrate this?

And of course, anyone who has seen the ring shirts has noticed the prominently featured NASA logo. While the Apollo hack makes perfect sense on the ring, the broader connection to NASA confuses me. Space is an area that can certainly inspire our class and give us goals to shoot for. Some of the most innovative private companies are actively pursuing space exploration. NASA is an organization that has no clear future, no funding to get back to the moon, let alone beyond, and by the time of our graduation will be dependent on others to get man into space at all. Given that they’re taxpayer funded and that the majority of America now favors cutting their funding, maybe the true symbolism of NASA is the budget cuts that are sweeping the Institute.

If anything, the leaked ring put things into perspective; Premiere exists for the ring, the ring doesn’t exist to have a fancy Premiere. Ultimately though, the ring is a piece of various metals, and only the meaning of the design on it and the memories it evokes for those who wear it are what matter. To the outside world, its potency at job interviews stems from the knowledge that it represents MIT and the skill of its students.

One doesn’t need a video from space or a fake design mocking the Mayans’ 2012 ramblings to unveil a ring and effectively symbolize the class. Six un-annotated PDFs did that task just fine. RingComm’s purpose is to unite the class they represent and give MIT sophomores a chance to come together and celebrate a milestone in their education. Future Premieres and designs should get back to the basics and focus on the ideas, not get super excited about sending a hunk of metal to an irrelevant space station on an aging shuttle. The goal of the Rat, after all, is to symbolize the Class of 2012: what we have experienced, what we have done, and how we will influence the world upon graduation.