The end of a year is a notoriously arbitrary occasion for reflection, and the end of a volume of The Tech is perhaps an even weirder time for contemplation. But my yearlong term as editor in chief tied me to the news at MIT — stories that were by turns surprising, bizarre, and heartbreaking — so this seems to me an apt opportunity to look back.
Though 2014 thankfully lacked any singular event like the marathon bombings and subsequent murder of Officer Sean Collier in April 2013, MIT once again saw more than its share of tragedy. We lost graduate students Hadi Kasab, Eliana Hechter, Kaitlin Goldstein, and Austin Travis this year, as well as professor Seth Teller, sophomore Phoebe Wang, and other members of the MIT community. Every death in the extended MIT family takes a toll, but students, faculty, administrators, and others made special efforts this past fall to open doors and come together in response to so much sad news.
Some of the news this year was simply strange. Another fall at a fraternity — this time LCA — resulted in minor injuries and a new, shorter-lived party ban, paralleling the similar outcome of an incident at Phi Sig one year before. Hopefully this streak is broken in 2015. Professor Jonathan Gruber became the unlikely subject of a political firestorm, and the MIT football team turned heads with an unexpected string of hard-earned wins that propelled them two games into the Division III playoffs.
Both surprising and troubling was Walter Lewin’s fall from grace — the once-revered emeritus professor was found to have used his position as an edX instructor to carry out disturbing sexual harassment. It was a jarring development to the many students who first came to know classical mechanics or even the name of MIT through his lectures, but the severity of his offense is clear.
The conversation around sexual misconduct came to the forefront at the Institute in 2014. The sexual assault survey released last year, in many ways the first of its kind, revealed that MIT is not immune to the challenges facing universities across the nation. Many of the survey results, including the 17 percent of female undergrads who said they experienced behavior defined as sexual assault, approach worrisome national rates.
I was proud to see discussion of this topic in the pages of The Tech. Survivors of sexual abuse bravely shared their stories, and advocates and allies challenged the community to hold itself to a higher standard. I was also glad to see students and faculty speak out on other important issues, from a more inclusive graduation invocation, to justice for undocumented immigrants, to an examination of racial biases at MIT following national attention to the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.
It’s sometimes hard to tell what matters to MIT students. Some of the news I found most striking barely got noticed, while seemingly clear-cut stories ignited controversy. But I think that somewhere amid the late nights, formulaic briefs, and urgent updates that keep our paper running, we all hope students care about what happens to their community. The Tech plans to be a part of whatever events and conversations will define 2015, and we hope you do too.
Volume 134 Editor in Chief