CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: A previous version of Randall's letter incorrectly omitted the MIT Ombuds Office from a list of groups not required to report sexual assaults to the Title IX office.

S3 and sexual assault response

I am responding to the article in the April 15 issue of The Tech by Anonymous, entitled “Punting sexual assault response.” On behalf of all the deans in Student Support Services (S3), I am very sorry that this student’s experience with our office was not a positive one. No one should ever have to experience sexual assault, but if you do, our goal is to do our best to help you get what you need from S3 or other resources on campus. When we make referrals to other offices, we are trying to get you connected to the right person as fast as possible. To be clear, students should absolutely have the choice to talk to their advisors and should also have the choice about whether to visit VPR (Violence Prevention and Response) or any other resource on campus. We are always striving to improve our services, and the reporting of Anonymous’ experience will be reviewed so we can take steps to improve how we communicate with students.

Although it may not have been communicated as effectively as possible, I think some of what the dean might have been trying to address were new procedures put in place related to sexual assault, Title IX, and the passage of the Campus SaVE Act. These procedures are not unique to S3 or even MIT, and are designed to ensure a safe college environment. All faculty and staff, if they learn about a sexual assault connected to MIT, are required to report it to the Title IX office. In fact, the only people on campus who are not required to report are those in MIT Medical (including VPR) and the Chaplains. If a representative from the Title IX office contacts you as a result of one of these reports, it is absolutely your decision about whether or not you speak to her or share any additional information.

As you probably know, President Reif has charged Chancellor Barnhart with “making the subject of sexual assault a priority.” We will learn a lot from what she discovers through conversations with students, faculty, and staff and through more formal assessments. MIT intends to be a leader in addressing sexual assault and harassment on college campuses.

I want to remind all students of the resources on campus. MIT Medical, Mental Health and Counseling, and VPR are confidential resources for students who are victims of sexual assault or have concerns about a friend. Our colleagues in VPR are incredibly dedicated professionals and staff a hotline that you can reach 24 hours a day by calling 617-253-2300. MIT Mental Health and Counseling has walk in hours every weekday between 2 and 4pm, and there is a clinician on call 24-hours per day (617-253-4481). The Chaplains are also available for confidential conversations. Students should also feel free to speak with their advisor, dean in Student Support Services, housemaster, RLAD, GRT, RA, academic administrator, or anyone else they feel comfortable with on campus. If it is not made clear at the start of the conversation, it would be a good idea for any student to clarify the reporting obligations of the person with whom you are speaking to avoid confusion. Faculty and staff also need to be mindful of proactively communicating their reporting obligations in sensitive and thoughtful ways.

Please refer to the website, Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct at MIT (http://sexualmisconduct.mit.edu) for up-to-date information about the resources available at MIT. If you have questions about Title IX, please email the Title IX office at TitleIX@mit.edu. If you have additional feedback for S3, please feel free to be in touch with me directly at drandall@mit.edu.

David Randall, Associate Dean and Head of Student Support Services

Hacking and the Institute

I would like to comment on last week’s opinion article entitled “The corporate hack.” I feel that the author had a few misconceptions about the Tetris lights in Building 54, the IHTFP hack gallery, and the general status of hacking at the Institute.

Like Nathaniel, I am a member of the EAPS department (class of 2011 and researcher post-graduation). I have also done a lot of research about the hacking culture at MIT because of my involvement writing the musical Hack, Punt, Tool.

Nathaniel seems to misunderstand who actually constructed and controls the Building 54 light display. Take a look at The Tech article that was published May 1st, 2012 about the lights. (http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N22/tetris.html)

Hackers spent years engineering the display, and now anyone can write code to be put on the building because it’s open source. The hackers vet the code to make sure everything is fine, but what’s displayed is always a surprise to everyone when it activates, even the admins. This takes a lot of support and trust from the EAPS department, but ultimately it’s the hackers who chose when and what to display.

Similarly, the IHTFP gallery is run by current students and alums. It is not officially part of the MIT administration or admissions office.

Additionally, unlike the CalTech “prankers” featured in the same issue of The Tech, MIT hackers do not have any official funding. They have to work together and Macgyver what they can in order to fund their own projects.

The hacking spirit at MIT has always been what Nathaniel urged it to be (“subversive, clever, creative, and completely unsupervised”), including now. And I, like Nathaniel, am excited to see what seemingly impossible creation hackers will engineer next!

Rachel A. Bowens-Rubin ’11

Nathaniel Dixon about 10 years ago

For those who are interested, I responded to Rachel's similar comment on my original article, challenging her critical assertion that "whats displayed is always a surprise to everyone when it activates, even the admins".

As EAPS department emails show as a matter of record, this is simply not true. The department HQ informs all residents by email, sometimes weeks in advance, and the lights are regulated in part by the Security and Emergency Management Office.

As for the funding, I don't know, but hacks this technologically advanced are rare because most undergrads can't purchase and install 153 multi-LED displays with their pizza money.

An impressive technological achievement, yes. A secretive, subversive, unsupervised hack? No.

Anonymous about 10 years ago

Nathaniel - There are people with money besides students and administration.