Prof. James Sherley's hunger strike and charges of racism against MIT have catalyzed a welcome public dialogue on race relations. We must be careful, however, to ensure balance as we take advantage of this opportunity to improve community standards and understanding: in addition to examining the extent and effect of racism, both within and beyond minority populations, we must also be willing to discuss the problematic role of race-baiting and hyperbole within the public realm.
The Brass Rat is a time honored tradition of MIT and a source of much pride for each MIT student that flaunts it on his or her finger. The ring design itself is evidently the most obvious element of this tradition, as it graces the ring finger of many MIT students and alumni for years, but the tradition extends far beyond these ever-evolving and unique designs premiered each year by the successive MIT classes. One equally important element of the tradition is the appointment of a committee of students, the Ring Committee, to design this ring; another, the Ring Premiere, where the class will for the first time see the design of the newest Brass Rat.
The Feb. 16 editorial authored by members of The Tech’s editorial board mistakenly referred to Prof. James L. Sherley as Mr. Sherley while referring to Prof. Douglas A. Lauffenburger as Prof. Lauffenburger. Unfortunately, this may have given the impression that the editorial was biased against Sherley. This inconsistency was not intentional and resulted largely from Lauffenburger being referred to as “Prof. Lauffenburger” in a quote within the editorial. It is not Tech style to use Mr., Mrs., or Ms. as a title. Future editorials will adhere to Tech style.
The power of eminent domain permits government to seize your house, land or business for “public use,” the term used in the constitutional clause which limits this authority. Local governments are increasingly abusing this prerogative, transferring seized land to other private parties rather than putting it to a truly public use like roads and other infrastructure. The recipients are usually corporations represented by powerful lobbies. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that a confiscatory transfer to another private party is a legitimate “public use” if the resulting economic activity under the new owners benefits the community. However, <i>every</i> piece of land would generate more employment, more goods and more tax revenue for the confiscators as a commercial establishment than as a private residence. <i>Every</i> home in America is now vulnerable to seizure under eminent domain under this expansive new interpretation of “public use,” not just those along roads which need to be widened.
I read your editorial concerning the apparent lack of evidence for Prof. Sherley’s claims of racism. While your argument seems logical and deliberate, your conclusions are obvious and you have added no value to the debate. Despite my own inquiry into the case, I remain ignorant of the deep facts. As my colleague remarked, “When are they going to tell us what really happened?” Of course there is a lack of evidence, and of course the burden of proof falls upon the accuser. These two points are not in question, as you have clarified in print.
Due to an editing error, the charges for the three students who tripped an alarm in E52 were unclear. The Feb. 16 article, “Three Students Face Felony Charges After Tripping E52 Alarm,” should have listed all three students as being charged with two counts: 1) trespassing and 2) breaking and entering with the intent to commit a felony. Additionally, Matthew W. Petersen ’09, one of the three students, is also being charged with possession of burglarious tools.
James Sherley wants us to believe that MIT is racist, and that it is because of this institutional racism that he was denied tenure. Unfortunately, his numerous lengthy public statements have supplied no evidence to support his claims. Mr. Sherley's supporters (including at least two whose letters appeared in Tuesday's <i>Tech</i>) support his claims of racism, but to date, none of them have come forward with any corroborating evidence either.
As we reflect on last week's tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., we should recall the words of Gunnar Jahn, who presented him with the Nobel Prize in 1964: "It was not because he led a racial minority in [its] struggle for equality that Martin Luther King achieved fame. Many others have done the same, and their names have been forgotten." Chief among these other catalysts for change was the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a group that offers us great insight into our own capacity as agents of change. Were it not for the SNCC's sustained efforts, "I Have a Dream" would have been little more than poetry on paper.
In early September, nearly a year after universities such as Harvard and Stanford divested from Sudan in response to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, President Hockfield convened the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility to begin discussing MIT's potential divestment. In response, student movements began both supporting and opposing divestment. Petitions were drafted for each side, with 499 supporting divestment and 94 against it. The divestment issue was hotly debated at both the UA and GSC meetings, resulting in the passage of a resolution by both groups supporting institute wide targeted-divestment by December 31, 2006. A coalition of student groups collaborated to organize a lecture by internationally renowned Sudan expert, Professor Eric Reeves, to help raise awareness in prelude to a divestment decision by the ACSR. Letters both in support and against divestment appeared in <i>The Tech</i>, as well as several front page articles discussing the divestment movement and the overwhelming response by the MIT community.
MIT offers great flexibility with its dining plan. Many other schools around the country force students to buy into a dining plan that could feed a family of four for six months. Whatever money the student does not spend on food is lost. At MIT, we instead boast a “pay as you go system” that gives students more dining options.
The headline of a <i>New York Times</i> article in the World & Nation section of the Tuesday, Feb. 9 issue mistakenly credited only the California Institute of Technology with the design of the International Linear Collider. The particle accelerator was designed by a group of international physicists.
I am distressed by MIT’s refusal to honor Professor Sherley’s request for a review of his tenure case and an inquiry into the mishandling of the case. The provost, chancellor, and members of the Biological Engineering Division state that the decision to deny Professor Sherley tenure was a fair one. Professor Chomsky and his colleagues, in a letter to<i> The Tech</i>, summarize compelling arguments contrary to that conclusion.
The Tuesday, Feb. 6 article “Quickly Constructed Robots Vie For Title; Design, Dress Award” misstated the number of teams and participants in the Mobile Autonomous System Laboratory competition. There were 16 teams and 55 participants, not 17 teams and 57 participants. Also, all of the robots used cameras, although the sentence “One of robots, Team Thirteen’s “Mr. Whiskers,” was instead programmed to get a sense for and give a visual representation of the playing field using its camera and other equipment, including a gyroscope, and other optical encoders.” may have given the impression that only one robot used a camera.
As a graduate school-bound college senior, I’m being reminded of some of the fresh new hells I experienced as a college-bound high school senior. In particular, choosing a dormitory is one of the scariest and most important decisions one can make. Experiencing a system less open and welcoming than MIT’s makes me appreciate ours all the more.
The Dunkin’ Donuts near my home in Plano, Texas is open 24 hours a day. My good friend tells me that his Dunkin’ in New Jersey is open until 4 a.m. every night. Now, how late is Dunkin’ open at MIT, a school with one of the most nocturnal demographics on the planet? Last time I checked, we couldn’t get donuts after 10 p.m.! The folks in Jersey or suburban Texas are definitely not flocking to Dunkin’ in the wee hours of the morning. So, why are tireless MIT students who find themselves tooling late into the night on campus left with little more than stale LaVerde’s coffee and cases of Red Bull to tie them over until morning? Don’t they deserve donuts, too? I say, legitimize our Dunkin’ Donuts — upgrade us to full time service! Heck, it might even be profitable.
Two years ago, in January 2005, Professor James L. Sherley, the only African-American faculty member ever appointed in the Division of Biological Engineering (BE), filed a letter of complaint about the division-level evaluation that resulted in the denial of his tenure in BE. Prof. Sherley’s complaints include charges of conflict of interest and racial discrimination. Provost L. Rafael Reif has now decided that, given the findings of the grievance review committee, Sherley’s tenure denial should stand.