May 18, 2008

Ring Committee

I'm still allowed to post whatever I want on my personal blog so I think this would be a great place to display what's been causing so much controversy over at the MIT blogs. Wank away dear readers.

Floating all around MIT are petitions saying something along the lines of "Do you care about ________ ? Are you unhappy about _________ ? Sign this petition!" I normally read these but don't have a vested interest and more than likely pass it up. Now a huge issue just ran smack into the face of the freshman class and I don't see any petitions so I'm doing the only other thing I'm able: putting it on the internet.

Ring Committee is a group of 12 students, chosen at the end of freshman year, who are tasked with designing the brass rat for their class. The brass rat is MIT's class ring, one of the most recognized rings in the world and a huge incentive to make it through sophomore year before dropping out (that was a joke). These 12 students are tasked with taking everything that's happened during our time here, summarize it symbolically, and display it on a ring that everybody in the class will have for the rest of their lives. It's kind of a big deal.

As you may or may not know, MIT has a lot of diversity, not just racially but also socially. The dormitories at MIT are very distinct in their reputations and personalities. The main, stereotypical (but not altogether incorrect) division made in categorizing dorms is the West Campus and East Campus split. I AM NOT trying to start a debate about West Campus and East Campus here, so if you're looking for a fight then leave it at the door, nobody cares. Here's how I describe the difference between east and west campus. West campus is where you live if you want to continue with the rules, order, and cleanliness of when you lived at home. East campus is where you live if you say "screw it, I'm doing what I want" and don't care about all of that stuff you learned at home. Both are nice, both have their upsides and downsides, and again, we're not going to argue about the differences between the two. The point is, both are very different.

50 people applied for Ring Committee and 12 were chosen. The e-mail announcing the decisions was sent out last night. Here's a pie chart that shows you who all was selected:

Immediately following that e-mail a wave of outrage swept east campus and a large portion of the freshman class. Take note, not only is almost half of the ring committee from ONE dorm, but none of the dorms from east campus are represented. At all.

Four hours after that e-mail we all received an e-mail from the class president that started with:

"Since announcing the roster of the class Ring Committee, I have been literally inundated by emails inquiring about the highly visible and unfortunate absence of "eastern campus" (East Campus, Senior Haus, Bexley, and Random) residents. "

First off, Mr. President, you don't live in Senior House, so lay off the "Haus."

He continued, throughout his incredibly long and verbose e-mail, to explain that hardly anybody from east campus had applied and that statistically it was improbable, even with a random sampling, to select anybody from east campus to Ring Committee. He argues that everything was done anonymously and this just kind of happened. He also said, in response to requests to add a 13 member to Ring Committee to represent east campus:

"To those who are fervently calling for the installment of a 13th member of the Ring Committee, I would ask that you reconsider what you are asking. Would you really be comfortable with the idea of petitioning Council to disregard the MIT culture of respecting meritocracy to use "affirmative action" on living groups?"

Now you know all of the details, let me tell you what matters.

Obviously having a completely anonymous process failed miserably. Yes, congratulations class council, you voted using a meritocracy and have selected a committee that has the skills necessary to design and create a ring. You know what you didn't select? A group of people who understand MIT. You selected Baker and some other people. There's no doubt in my mind that your selected Committee has ventured to east campus or has friends in east campus, but THEY DON'T LIVE THERE! They don't understand what day to day life is, they don't understand the traditions, they (more than likely) wouldn't even understand a conversation held between ec residents due to the difference in vocabulary.

Right off, I'm not sugar coating anything. I'm not a people-pleasing council-person with a political agenda. I'm angry and don't care about being PC.

In order for our class ring to have content that represents our class AS A WHOLE then our class AS A WHOLE needs to be represented on the Ring Committee. "Affirmative action on dorms"? Absolutely! Anything that will diversify that committee needs to happen, otherwise I'm afraid that when I get my brass rat I'm going to look on it and see a bunch of SaveTFP, GoCrossCampus, and other MIT sponsored "we need to give our students something structured and exciting to do to make them feel like they belong here!" crap. What I'm afraid I won't see are hacks, spontaneous student construction projects, and other non-MIT sponsored activities.

Congratulations again, class council, you picked a council using a completely anonymous method. You also picked the least diverse Ring Committee conceivable. Fix it.


Charlemagne said...

the cache of your original post on the MIT blogs still shows up in my RSS feed. Weird. At any rate, I don't see how something like this could go unnoticed and not addressed. Diversity? please! like you said, nearly half of those kids are from Baker (not that theres anything particularly wrong with that, it's just not diverse). Poor EC kids, something needs to happen.

Paul said...

Chris: I've been talking with a bunch of people, including the Class Council President. I don't know what will happen, but I'm helping someone edit a petition, which we're about to distribute.

Keri said...

I got to read it before it was unpublished too, thanks to my RSS feed. While I agree with just about everything you said, I still think that this is the kind of post that does not belong on MITblogs, for reasons that I can explain if you want me to.

That said, the lack of a legitimately diverse ring committee has been an issue for a few years now - the class of 2008 did a pretty good job of addressing that, but the class of 2010 had issues very similar to yours - half of our committee also originally lived in Baker, two were from the same fraternity, five were from two sororities (three from Alpha Phi, two from Sigma Kappa), and all but two were Greek-affiliated. We did, however, have a girl from 3rd East.

As for the "but east campus is a minority!" crap that people have been spewing: of the ~2900 beds available in undergraduate dorms, over 700 of them are in east campus dorms. 1/4 is not 1/12, and it's a hell of a lot more than zero representation.

I'm tired of students perpetuating the problem of overrepresentation of west campus students in leadership positions - more specifically, Bakerites running every goddamn thing on campus for their own means without taking the opinions of others into consideration. (That's an overgeneralization, but I don't really care right now.)

I do hope that your class is able to do something about this (and I'm fuck-all irritated that the more-than-qualified frosh I know weren't selected). No one wants more Greek letters and crew boats on their Brass Rats.

Milena said...

"First off, Mr. President, you don't live in Senior House, lay off the "Haus.""

I generally disagree with you, but damn, you're right on this one. It's so fucking annoying to see other people referring to SH as "Senior Haus" when they have no relation to it whatsoever. I mean, I'm not all hardcore about my dorm, but it's still annoying.

And yeah, it's pretty annoying that most of ringcomm is from Baker. I can only predict a disaster.

Cristen said...

aw i missed the ringcomm post on the MITblogs, but i found it here.. yea we've never met but i'm just a friendly blog stalker since i know three gals who post on it (hi i'm cristen, 2010, nice to meet you and i think your entries are cool, you've probably heard it all before :)).

anyway.. it made me really happy to see people have passion in it. also made me happy to discover how flawed the selection process actually is (instead of me being bitter i didn't get chosen last year, or that awesome people i know didn't get chosen this year). anyway best of luck and i'll sign a petition if/when it happens.

Paul said...

I mostly agree with you, Milena. But am I connected enough to SH to call it "Haus"? :D

Paul said...

@Cristen: The petition has been sent to the dorms.

Also, considering that you're friends with maggied, Alioth, Grace, etc., I think I probably know you...

Chris said...

donde esta el petition that was distributed to the dorms? The one by "Cody"?

revlisy said...

Joshua said...

IAWTP, politically speaking.

As for insignificant terminological issues, however... The whole House/Haus thing is stupid. If both spellings were considered OK then that would be fine, or if Senior House residents didn't like one of the spellings then that should be respected by /everyone/, but if Senior House residents call it a Haus in public, then so can everyone else. Who ever heard of a privileged spelling.

(This is Josh d'Tetazoo, incidentally.)

revlisy said...

what does iawtp mean?

Piper said...

W00 petitions.

Till Lindermann said...

Snively, you're completely incorrect about the way you interpret the divide between east and west campus. You're basically wrong about east campus. First off, I think that the main difference is that west campus tries to re-create the status quo of high school with clearly defined lines of who belongs in what category, while in east campus, the concept of a status quo is much more downplayed, and not as openly visible because it doesn't exist to such an extent.

Keri said...

Oh hey, I'm Haus president and I don't care who uses House vs. Haus. But that and your ideas about west and east campus are - as you already stated - not the point of this post, right?


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