How conversations flipped my political views
Finding the courage to engage with ignorance can make an enormous impact; it certainly did for me.
The ‘how,’ ‘what,’ and ‘why’ of reporting hazing
For MIT students, this is an exciting time of year. Friends who have spent the summer months apart are reunited, living groups and student groups are reinvigorated by the influx of the excited freshmen, and classes have been in session for just a couple weeks. Additional highlights of the start of the school year for many are Fraternity Rush and Sorority Recruitment. While I’ve previously documented my views that Fraternity Rush is unfair to the dormitories and should be moved to IAP, there is no denying that fraternities (and sororities) do a lot of good for the wider community and the individual members.
Drunk off the firehose: A review of MIT
For the last four years, MIT has been my world. The Institute is a cruel and jealous master, demanding nothing less than complete devotion. It consumes you, and you become consumed by it.
Encouraging students to pursue STEM
Did you know that only six percent of high school seniors will get a bachelors degree in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field? At the same time, while many economic sectors are stagnant, STEM job openings will likely skyrocket over the next several decades. While so many are still looking for work, the U.S. is not going to be able to fill these openings. While only six percent of U.S. graduates have a degree in a STEM field, 47 percent of Chinese graduates do. There is no question that the United States is falling behind when it comes to STEM education. So why are our students so reluctant to pursue these types of degrees, and what can we do to fix the problem?
We could be so much more
On Saturday, the government enacted a set of across-the-board spending cuts known as “the sequester.” These cuts, painful for both parties, were created by Congress last year to motivate a compromise on deficit reduction.
Data and morality support the need for gun control
The United States already has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. There are about 89 guns per 100 citizens, and in 2011, 34 percent of adults owned a gun and 47 percent of adults live with a gun in the house. The United States also ranks eleventh worldwide in total firearm-related deaths, with not a single country ahead of us categorized as “developed” by the United Nations. Given this data, how is there any reasonable expectation that giving even more guns to Americans will somehow lower the rate of firearm-related deaths?
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness
Florence Gallez calls on victims of mental illness to try something we already know doesn’t work, and is often dangerous to the individual: to tough it out, build up resilience, and get better on their own. Not only does this view run counter to virtually all research we have at our disposal today, but it is akin to asking victims with cancer to just try really hard to overcome it by themselves without seeking medical attention. Your body is just as incapable of getting rid of an illness like cancer as your mind is incapable of getting rid of an illness like depression. In fact, your body may even stand a better chance, as there’s no “immune system of the mind.” Gallez claims that we have everything we need inside of us, and by focusing on our needs and shutting out the noise of the world, we’ll get better. Gallez is wrong. Let’s take a look at what science has established with respect to mental illness.
You Are Not a Doctor; Don’t Pretend to Be
One scene from A Beautiful Mind, a movie which follows mathematician John Nash’s descent into schizophrenia, does a fine job of demonstrating why individuals cannot handle mental illness on their own. Nash is talking with his psychiatrist, contending that he does not need help because he can “reason his way” out of his illness. His psychiatrist points out that this is impossible, because “your mind is where the problem is in the first place.”
MIT should create an education degree
MIT has been leading the way in education longer than many of us might realize. TEAL, implemented about a decade ago, lowered the fail rate of 8.01 and 8.02, the freshman physics classes, by embracing a much more engaging style of learning. This is consistent with research that finds that, of all possible teaching styles, students retain the least when lectured to. More recently, MIT decided to take charge of the movement towards online education by creating MITx, which soon became EdX. Although MIT has focused on college-level education, much of what it’s done is still applicable to K-12 education.
Student input heard in one RLAD debate
The implementation of the new Residential Life Area Directors (RLAD) system has been fraught with all of the problems students have become accustomed to in recent years, particularly regarding student input.
Science and religion are complements
Asking whether or not religion conflicts with science is too broad a question. Of course there are certain religions that conflict with science; Christian fundamentalism, with its claims of God creating the world in six days and the human race springing from a woman tempted by a talking snake, obviously conflicts with well-established science. Yet there are many other religions which do not conflict with science. As a Catholic, I have not once encountered a belief held by the Church that contradicts anything that I have learned during my time in high school or time here as a physics major at MIT.
Voters, fortunately, have a tough choice this year
Editor’s Note: Ryan Normandin is the UA Council representative from MacGregor House, formerly UA senator.
The benefits of MITx
MITx has stimulated much discussion among MIT students, and seems to have divided them into two camps: the ones who believe that our degree will be devalued by the implementation of MITx and those who do not. In fact, the most likely outcome is that MITx will reap enormous benefits, both on campus and internationally.
UA needs long-term vision
The UA Senate was popularly perceived as being inefficient, ineffective, and just not doing all that much. This, in fact, provided much of the impetus behind the restructuring that led to the creation of the UA Council. And this is more than just a feeling; the “exit polls” of graduating seniors indeed indicate that many students are dissatisfied with student government at MIT. This logically leads to the question of what exactly is it that the UA should be doing? For as long as I can remember, the UA has lacked a real vision; sure, they want to improve life for undergraduates and advocate on their behalf, but how? What can the Senate point to that it actually accomplished? The answer to that question is “nothing.” The “doing things” part of the UA has always been the committees. The committees on dining, space planning, events, sustainability, and education, to name just a few, have always been the ones who can point to things that they have actually accomplished and tangibly improved undergraduate life through. And this makes sense; the committees all have clear charters and projects that are led by chairs who have a vision for the committee.
The problems with the presidents
The Tech has covered the extremely high rate of attrition in the Undergraduate Association (UA) previously, with Senators and members of Exec resigning in droves. In fact, this was one factor that drove the UA to restructure itself this past semester, in hopes of preventing such large-scale resignations in the future. It is ironic that the first individual to resign under the newly formed government is the UA President (UAP) himself, who spent the fall working on the solution.
ON CAMPUS REVIEW A tumultuous year could be a new beginning
2011 was a big one for MIT students, particularly in the realm of student government. Depending on who you ask, there was some combination of victories and defeats resulting in the implementation of the long-fought dining plan, the dissolution of the Undergraduate Association (UA) Senate by itself and simultaneous creation of the UA Council, and the appointment of a new Chancellor, Eric Grimson PhD ’80, which gave hope for renewed trust in student-faculty relations.
Vote YES on UA reform
Editor’s Note: The UA passed a restructuring bill last night, after the deadline for this column.
Republicans should not ignore Occupy Wall Street
The Occupy Wall Street movement has been lambasted by Republicans nearly since its inception. This is not entirely unreasonable — interviews with some of the protesters have demonstrated an extensive lack of knowledge regarding what they’re protesting and why they’re protesting it. One college student said that he thought the government should pay for his college tuition simply because he wants them to. Others, even if they are able to clearly enunciate problems, have no ideas about the solution. As such, it has been only too easy for Republicans to trivialize the movement, portraying it as a group of people too lazy to look for work, individuals who simply want everything handed to them, or people who are looking for something to do and figure that Occupy Wall Street — being the latest fad — would be fun.
Why moving farther right is so wrong
By this point, it is no secret that the Republican field of presidential candidates is not ideal (and that’s being generous). But the flaws of the party have made themselves apparent not only in the candidates, but also in the voters. The positions of the candidates and the disgusting responses of the audience at the Republican debates have put on full display just how far to the right the Tea Party has driven the GOP.
Remembering September 11th
On Sunday morning, over 200 members of the MIT community gathered to remember those lost a decade ago on September 11th and honor the heroes of that day. Speakers included President Susan J. Hockfield, MIT Director of Facilities and Security John DiFava, Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80, and Chaplain Robert M. Randolph. The ceremony started in Lobby 10 with an invocation and moment of silence, and moved outside to Killian for the flag lowering ceremony and benediction. It was a fitting tribute to those who died and those who selflessly gave their lives. Watch the video at <a href=http://tech.mit.edu/V131/N36/september11/video.html rel=nofollow> <i>http://tech.mit.edu/V131/N36/september11/video.html</i></a>.
The dark side of an MIT brain
In the early 90s, a young man named Lead Wey ’93 arrived on campus at MIT, just like all of us have been these past few days. Like us, he was intelligent, driven, and had an entrepreneurial spirit. Like us, he experienced the rush of success after mastering a particularly difficult class or problem set, along with the humbling knowledge that everyone around you is just as smart as or smarter than yourself. His years at the Institute, which he attended for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, were both rewarding and, at times, uncomfortable. Both the positive and negative shaped what this man would go on to do.
Why life trumps choice
The abortion debate centers on two rights fundamental to American society: life and liberty. The two sides say as much, with one labeling itself “pro-life” and the other “pro-choice.” In general, it is accepted that individuals are free to do as they choose as long as those choices do not harm others, society, or themselves, within reason. There is certainly some leeway here, as the boundary between “not harmful enough” and “too harmful” is often fuzzy. We’ve seen this in the implementation and subsequent repeal of Prohibition, the debate over the legalization of marijuana, and other differences between states’ laws.
THE MIT SCOOP ‘REX’PECTATIONS
It is our pleasure to bring you the first video in a new series called “The MIT Scoop.” The Scoop is intended to give you a window into what student life at MIT is really like. You’ll be able to follow with your own eyes and ears the daily escapades of MIT students. Ever wonder how many hours of studying a typical student does? Or how freshmens’ expectations match up with upperclassmens’ experiences? Now you can hear it directly from the people who are living it. The videos can be viewed by scanning the QR code to the right or by going to . So quit reading and start watching!
Why Senator Brown is wrong
In an August 13 op-ed in the Boston Globe on controlling the debt, Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) echoed the disgust many feel with the bickering in Washington, stressing the need for bipartisan policies to control the debt. Having voted for Senator Brown myself, I was hopeful that the proposals he outlined might indeed represent the type of bipartisanship he ran on during his campaign. I was sorely disappointed to find that his idea of reaching across the aisle was the same as Speaker John Boehner’s: unwilling to accept anything less than 98 percent of his demands.
Help fix MIT’s student government
In high school, many of you were likely involved in some form of student government. Whether as a class officer, a member of the executive board of Student Council , or as a student leader in some other capacity, I’m willing to bet that you left a positive mark on your school. In fact, I know you have. According to the May/June Faculty Newsletter, 31 percent of you founded an organization. Perhaps, like myself when I was a freshman, you are proud of what you’ve accomplished so far, but are wondering where you will find your niche at MIT. With over four thousand undergraduate students at this school, will you be able to have as big an impact as you did in high school? I’m here to tell you that the answer to that is a resounding “yes.”
Gay marriage should not be made legal
It is unfortunate that there is such a growing stigma attached to arguing against gay marriage — at least here in the liberal bastion that is Massachusetts. If one is opposed to legalizing gay marriage, it is automatically assumed that the opposition rests on a basis of hate, homophobia, or other such negative motivations. There are, in fact, legitimate, substantive reasons as to why gay marriage should not be legalized.
I am dissenting from the above editorial because it is my firm belief that by legalizing gay marriage, New York has become the latest state to embarrass itself and this country. Contrary to what the rest of the editorial board suggests, there is strong research conducted by Dr. Bruce J. Ellis, Professor of Psychology at the University of Canterbury, and others demonstrating that a child needs a father to develop properly. Further, there is no interest compelling enough to justify legalizing gay marriage. By the logic above — namely that “it is self-evident that people should have the right to marry whom they love,” the government should allow first cousins or siblings to marry. Love is not enough for the government to spend my tax dollars subsidizing a relationship which does not serve a compelling interest. Heterosexual relationships, on the contrary, allow for the propagation of American society, which justifies a government subsidy. For the rest of my argument, please see my counterpoint on page five. While I do not endorse New York’s decision, I do agree with the rest of the editorial board’s encouragement of the MIT community to continue providing support and services and raising awareness for LGBT students, as it would for any other group that has faced lack of acceptance or has been the subject of social marginalization.
A reminder to Patrick: illegal means illegal
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has a long history of pandering to illegal immigrants. During his first term, Patrick reversed a decision by the previous Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, which gave state troopers the power to arrest illegal immigrants. Let me point out that Romney’s policy makes sense because, as the title may imply, illegal immigrants are here illegally. They are breaking the law. As such, they should be arrested. Shocking, I know. Deval Patrick’s rationale for promptly reversing Gov. Romney’s decision was that state troopers “have a very big job as it is, without having to add enforcing federal immigration laws on top of it.” Ah, well there we are. Those poor state troopers are just too busy enforcing other laws. So if they pull over someone for speeding and it turns out that the individual is also an illegal immigrant, too bad! After all, according to Patrick, they have more important things to do—like enforcing laws that don’t alienate one of Patrick’s key special interests (the immigrant community).
MIT is hard, and that’s why you should attend
CPW! As one person — famous for her truly insightful and thought-provoking lyrics — would say, “It’s Friday, Friday … fun, fun, fun, fun.” She’s got excellent grammar, too. But this article is not about Rebecca Black, it’s about you. More specifically, it’s about why you should choose MIT over any other school you may have been accepted to.
In schools, effectiveness does not equal experience
Much to my delight, education reform has once again taken the national stage over the course of last year. Due to the publicly hyped Race to the Top program, the documentary Waiting for Superman, and the release of the latest Programme for International Student Assessment report, which yet again placed the U.S. in the middle of the pack in education, the public is demanding changes to our education system. Terms like merit-based pay, teacher tenure, and high-stakes testing have become more and more pervasive in American conversations over the last year. Yet even after a year of talk, public opinion has yet to converge on what should be done.
The next great American crisis
The recent collapse of the financial sector was only felt by most after it happened. Today, we face yet another financial crisis that is quietly creeping up on us. And I’m not talking about a double-dip recession or a renewed threat from Wall Street. I’m talking about college loans, especially when combined with the current 9.8 percent unemployment rate. Like mortgages, the financial product that played a large role in the more recent collapse, college loans are widespread. Approximately two thirds of all college students graduate with college loans, and in 2008, The Project on Student Debt estimates that 206,000 students graduated with debts of $40,000 or greater. And the situation is not improving; total student loan debt in the United States is increasing at a rate of about $2,853.88 every second.
Bring the U.S. out of the Dark Ages
Every four years, the United Nations undertakes a review of member nations’ human rights situations. The United States was recently evaluated, and one conspicuous recommendation was that the country abolish the death penalty.
Why TEAL works
In the years leading up to 2000, the MIT Physics Department realized it had a problem. Despite great lecturers such as Walter Lewin, attendance at physics lectures fell 40 percent by the end of the term. In addition, an average of 10 percent of students failed 8.01 (Mechanics) and 14 percent of students failed 8.02 (Electricity and Magnetism). So MIT did what it does best: It solved the problem.
The danger when renovations run late
Over the summer, MacGregor was extensively renovated, which is a good thing. It means that we can now turn our heat up or down, the shower feels like a firehose, and there’s no more asbestos killing us as we sleep. MIT also installed a completely new fire alarm system. And although the voice that tells us to evacuate the building is terribly annoying, I can forgive that small deficiency since it might save my life. But there is another problem that is a bit more troubling.
Why no freshman should accept a fraternity’s bid
By this point, the frivolous spending of FSILG rush is almost over. In the real world, people driving around in vans with blacked out windows trying to pick up freshmen would be creepy. In the real world, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in a week on trips, food, and Segways would be considered brash and spendthrift. In the real world, using all of those purchases to convince someone to join your club is called “bribery.” But here at MIT, it is the norm for fraternities to recruit members by taking advantage of freshmen’s unfamiliarity with their campus living groups.
A freshman’s guide to thriving at MIT
At this point, you’ve settled into your temporary room, semi-unpacked and probably eaten lots and lots of free food. If you’re hungry or have paid for food, you’re doing something wrong. Maybe you’ve gone to some “mandatory” Orientation events or you’re doing an FPOP. You’re meeting lots of people, staying up all night, and generally having a great time. And slowly, you might even be starting to believe that this is what MIT is like all of the time.
Radically bitter tea
The tea party movement has come a long way since its inception. Emerging in 2009 as a reaction to bank bailouts and the looming health care reform, the movement originally appeared to be a highly localized and disorganized group angry with the increasing size, power, and spending of the federal government. They seemed to resuscitate the ghost of the old “states-righters” around the time of the Civil War. Due to the extremely localized nature of the movement, many believed that the party would quickly disintegrate. Unfortunately, they were wrong — instead of falling apart, it has mutated into a virus that is taking hold of many voters and Republican politicians throughout this country.
The freshman experience
I remember falling asleep that first night after moving into my room. Music blasted somewhere in the distance, cars zoomed by across the river, and voices shouted and laughed outside as people walked by MacGregor House. It was a sharp contrast to what I was used to. Having grown up in Uxbridge, MA, a small town of 13,000, I was accustomed to far more natural sounds: the rustling of leaves as the wind swept through them. The chirping of crickets amid the buzzing of other insects. The gentle pattering of rain on the roof.
A new model of public education
<i>This is the last in a three-part series on education reform in America.</i>
One country, one set of standards
<i>This is the second in a three-part series on education reform in America.</i>
The Supreme Court’s Supreme Mistake
On Thursday, January 21, the Supreme Court, under the excuse of “freedom of speech,” invited heightened levels of corruption back into political campaigns with a ruling that has the potential to damage the democratic system of elections. In 2002, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, usually referred to as the McCain-Feingold Act, was passed by Congress. This landmark legislation prohibited corporations and labor unions from using their money to run ads supporting or opposing election candidates in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before general elections. After Thursday’s ruling, which struck down this part of the law, in addition to two previous rulings supporting it, big business was handed a political megaphone with which it could both drown out the average citizen and try to control politicians to an even greater extent than it does today.
Illegal Immigration: It’s Illegal
Blue hats are blue. Big trees are big. Do you agree with these statements? How about this one: Illegal immigration is illegal. For some reason, this point has been a contentious issue in the United States over the past few years.
The Obi-Wan Kenobi Act
I wrote an article in the October 20 <i>Tech</i> in which I lambasted our government’s wasteful spending. While much time was spent offering examples of wasted tax dollars, there was little discussion of where I would want my money to go. In addition, what reforms or new programs should be set up to provide more tangible benefits than studying drunk Argentineans? There is a specific area in which the federal government needs to step up, and I hereby propose the Obi-Wan Kenobi Act.
The Good, the Bad, and the Clever of The MIT Budget Task Force Report
As many are aware, MIT commissioned a task force to investigate how spending can be cut in response to last year’s global economic meltdown. In addition to the cuts already made, the Task Force has looked at a wide variety of ways for saving MIT even more money. Some of these ideas are common sense, some are quite clever, but there are one or two that are just plain bad. Not even moderately bad. Awful bad. Dining-system-reform-from-bad-to-worse bad.
A Defense of State Capitalism
Recently, the well-known liberal filmmaker Michael Moore released his new movie, <i>Capitalism: A Love Story</i>. As the sarcastic title suggests, this movie was produced in an effort to portray the American capitalist system as an illogical system that is based on an emotional attachment rather than reasoning. It blames capitalism for the recent economic collapse, skyrocketing unemployment, and widespread suffering in general. As a solution, Moore advocates socialism. No surprises there.
Condoms, Canoes, and Drunken Argentinean Men
Taxes, a necessary evil of our society, represent the means by which we fund our government. Or rather, the way our government charges us for its bills. Did you know that the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which established the income tax, was supposed to be temporary? Did those who ratified this amendment really think that the government would cut off funding to itself?
To Bomb Or Not To Bomb
Once again, tensions in the Middle East are running high. Many of the controversies swirl around Iran, which has made headlines recently for a variety of reasons — none of them positive.
Public Education Reforms: What America Needs to Do
Summer vacation. Lectures. Math, Science, English, and History as discrete subjects. All things of the past. Today, more and more schools are shifting into the realm of project-based learning, interdisciplinary instruction, and, to the sound of millions of children wailing, longer school days and years. Let’s look at the facts: According to the OECD’s (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Program for International Student Assessment in 2003, American “15 year olds ranked 24th of 38 in mathematics, 19th of 38 in science, 12th of 38 in reading, and 26th of 38 in problem solving. In the 2006 assessment, the U.S. ranked 35th out of 57 in mathematics and 29th out of 57 in science.”
The Dark Side of Rush
Orientation is finally over. It’s the end of the mandatory events that about 50 percent of freshmen don’t go to and the end of the leftover free food that is left sitting near Kresge for days afterwards. But the end of Orientation does not mean the end of free food. For with the end of the first week comes the beginning of the second, known as rush. During this frenetic time, the 26 fraternities battle it out to recruit as many freshmen as possible.