As we students enjoy a passing resemblance to having lives and would be delighted to contribute meaningfully to MIT’s decisions regarding how students live — that is to say, regarding housing — we are continually dismayed at how little attention the administration pays to student input. But are we surprised? A reading of <i>The Tech</i>’s archives suggests that even “ten-yeared” students should be anything but.
While I thought The Tech’s recent Year in Review issue did an outstanding job of representing the triumphs, controversies, and other stories that profoundly affected MIT over the past year, I am troubled that, in all of the issue’s 36 pages, not once does the word UROP appear. The student-driven research for which MIT is supposedly so highly regarded is barely mentioned, even while eight pages are dedicated to MIT’s athletics program. Although The Tech selected nine athletes to showcase as “Profiles of Dedication” — a title well deserved — that phrase could just as easily have been applied to any number of UROP students. To be sure, I do not mean to slight the student-athletes who devote so much of their time, energy, and passion to excelling in their chosen sport or sports. But I find it strange that even here at the Massachusetts Institute of <i>Technology</i>, we still seem to value articles about athletics above stories about academics.
Incorporating perspectives built upon institutional memory and the paper’s untouched archives, <i>The Tech’s </i>editorial board weighed in on several matters of importance to the MIT community this past year. Below find editorials on what we consider to be some of the year’s most important topics.
Over the past seven years, the MIT Corporation has been actively concealing evidence of scientific fraud at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, relating to the effectiveness of a national missile defense system. During that time, the U.S. has mis-spent nearly $70 billion of national treasure on a flawed system, and MIT’s name has been used to lull the nation’s decision makers into believing that the defense might work. My aim in writing this article is to provide the MIT community with facts so powerful that anyone who reads them will understand that the actions of the MIT Corporation in this case have ignored the nation’s best interests.
The constant barrage of news about climate change, energy shortages, environmental degradation, disease, and war demonstrates the challenges and dangers of an increasingly interconnected world. However, in the face of these grim realities and predictions, it is reassuring to witness the real-world, international successes of MIT students. By working with communities around the world, MIT students create positive outcomes that have transformative effects. The more MIT students participate in international public service, the better chance we have of creating a world where interconnection is an asset and headlines can be positive.
I’ve often referred to MIT as a “nerd reservation,” or a place for the world’s extremely bizarre people to live and work together by their own system of rules and social norms.<i> </i>This beautiful society they created — one based on respect for logic and invention<i> </i>— is not coincidentally a mine of greatness. While churning out Nobel Laureates and top ranks, MIT garnered the reputation of being fun for those that appreciate spelunking, Smoots, and steer.
2007 represented a year of quiet victories for student-led initiatives. Two examples merit particular attention — the first for confirming that partnership between students and administrators is possible, the second for demonstrating that sustained student pressure can change even the most entrenched of Institute policies.
During the last few months, as I served as the chair of the MIT faculty, I have been surprised by a phenomenon which I can only describe as a paradox. While all the indicators of MIT’s institutional performance look quite positive and convey clearly that MIT remains a leading research university in the world, the faculty — not all, but a sizeable number — seem to feel that the Institute is not moving in the right direction, that its institutional norms and practices are changing, moving away from MIT’s traditional culture of decentralized innovations towards a relatively centralized and somewhat corporate model of governance. This odd juxtaposition of success and alarm has been intriguing for me.
MIT is going through an identity crisis. Administrators frequently use Ivy League universities as a yardstick by which MIT’s student life is evaluated. MIT fundamentally differs from these other elite institutions in our dominance of science and engineering as well as our values of self-determination and independence in student life.
2007 has been the year of the great copyright crackdown. While copyright has been part of the law for hundreds of years, protecting intellectual property so that those who create it are justly compensated is now even more important in an information economy, even as the prevalence of digital media makes it easier to violate copyright laws.
Natasha Plotkin’s article (“RIAA Sends Institute 19 Settlement Letters Alleging Infringement,” Jan. 23, 2008) mentions that one of the 23 letters sent by the RIAA in May 2007 was unable to be tied to an individual student. This could be improved to 23 of 23 if Information Services & Technology purged DHCP logs frequently, quicker than the time required to execute a subpoena.