Report by Title IX investigator concludes Voo Doo not in violation of Title IX

Voo Doo, a humor magazine published by MIT students, was not found to be in violation of Title IX, according to a report sent to officers and council members of the Undergraduate Association (UA) on Monday.

According to the report, an undergraduate had complained about a drawing of a woman tied to a bed being penetrated by objects with labels like “Dining” and “Summer housing.” He said that the drawing, which appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Voo Doo, triggered a “flashback to when I had personally been a victim of sexual assault” that nearly threw him into a “depressive state,” the report said.

The report was prepared by MIT’s Title IX investigator, Sarah Rankin, according to the chair of the UA’s Finance Board, Anirudh Sailesh ’16.

Alina Kononov ’14, the current editor of Voo Doo, was quoted in the report as saying that no topics should be “off limits or exempt from humor.” Humor is the main criterion used to determine which submissions are published, Kononov told Rankin.

Kononov was not the editor when the drawing that led to the original complaint was published.

“Given that it is an optional publication that people can choose to read or not, the broader impact on the MIT community is somewhat limited,” Rankin’s report reads. “The intent, as described by members of the Voo Doo board, is to create provocative and progressive material that creates a dialogue about important issues at MIT.”

The report concludes: “Given Voo Doo’s limited impact and that it’s an optional publication people have to seek out, it does not appear to be creating a persistent or pervasive hostile environment. The TIX Investigator and TIX Coordinator will meet with the UA and ASA to alert them of the concerns raised in the complaint as a consideration in future recognition requests and funding allocations.”

Another student, who also wished to remain anonymous, said that Voo Doo was full of “puerile, offensive attempts at humor” and that the “denigration of women” was a “pervasive, indeed almost obsessive, theme” in the magazine since 2010, according to Rankin’s report.

Recent issues of Voo Doo include the following warning: “Voo Doo does not take responsibility for any consequences of people reading the magazine. By choosing to view this magazine, you put yourself at risk of taking offense, doubling over in uncontrollable laughter, and/or nuclear radiation.”

Five professors named MacVicar Faculty Fellows

This year five professors were awarded the MacVicar Faculty Fellow award. These professors, recognized for excellence in teaching and education of undergraduates at the Institute, are: Jacopo Buongiorno, an associate professor of nuclear science and engineering; Tomás Lozano-Pérez, the School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Excellence in electrical engineering and computer science; John Ochsendorf, Class of 1942 Professor of Architecture, with a joint appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Heather Anne Paxson, an associate professor of anthropology; and Kristala L. J. Prather, the Theodore T. Miller Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering. As per the MacVicar program, these professors will hold the position for 10 years and are awarded $10,000 per year of discretionary funding to support their undergraduate teaching. The MacVicar Fellows are announced on MacVicar Day, which took place on March 14 this year.

An advisory committee formed of both students and faculty, chaired by Dean for Undergraduate Education Dennis M. Freeman, reviews nominations for the MacVicar Faculty Fellow award. Provost Martin A. Schmidt PhD ’88 is responsible for the ultimate selection for the award. Currently, the program sponsors 41 professors.

The Faculty Fellows program was created in honor of Margaret L. A. MacVicar ScD ’67, who was a dean for undergraduate education. Among other programs, Margaret MacVicar is credited as the founder of MIT’s well-known Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

—Leon Lin and
Tushar Kamath