More than 100 students and other members of the MIT community marched across Massachusetts Avenue on Tuesday to participate in a discussion of race, gender and diversity on the terrace in front of the Stratton Student Center.
The group included members of Alpha Tau Omega, who distributed leaflets announcing a forum next Monday at 1:30pm in Wong Auditorium entitled "Building a Better MIT Community: Looking Beyond the ATO Incident." A member of the fraternity used racially charged language that led to a scuffle with African-American musicians on campus to play in a concert during Spring Weekend.
People in the crowd wore buttons that said "Unity in Our Community."
Participants in Tuesday's "Speak Out!!" were allotted five minutes each at the microphone. Topics discussed included the need for a multicultural center at MIT, replacing one of the male figures in the "mens et manus" MIT seal with a female, curriculum changes relating to diversity and ethnic studies, and preservation of the John O'Bryant African American Institute at Northeastern University.
Senior Jonathan White, one of the organizers, spoke first, reading an e-mail he had distributed before the rally. "I'm afraid that what many hope will be the beginning of a collective change on this campus will be seen as a random misused tactic in some formal chain of procedure -- that people see this as an end, when in reality it's a start," said Mr. White.
"I'm afraid that what is meant to be open and inclusive will be inappropriately diagnosed as a means to alienate, separate and further dissect the community.
"I'm afraid that as that hour approaches when we as a community of color, and a major component of the entire MIT community, have the opportunity to stand up and stand out, speak up and speak out about issues of sexism, multiculturalism and diversity, and race, we will instead choose to crawl back into our comfort zones and remain silent when we know, in our hearts, that these issues exist, they are being battled across this nation, and those battles won't be won unless we align ourselves with the entire community."
The next speaker, graduate student Christopher M. Jones, asked the audience to join hands and close their eyes as he repeated a portion of Mr. White's message, including the above passages. When he reached the final thought, he requested that they open their eyes and look at the person next to them as he left them with Mr. White's final words:
"I'm afraid that at the end of the day, you will not have looked through my eyes... and have seen what I see."
Among the speakers who followed was ATO President Erik M. Glover, who apologized for the April 27 incident and said he was proud of the members' actions afterward. "This is one final exam none of us can afford to fail," said Mr. Glover, a junior in mechanical engineering.
Other speakers included Dean Isaac M. Colbert; Associate Dean Blanche E. Staton and Lynn A. Roberson of Counseling and Support Services in a joint statement; materials science and engineering graduate student Aimee L. Smith; Regina M. Caines, director of affirmative a-tion/equal employment opportunity; Dean Ayida Mthembu; and urban studies and planning junior Jovonne J. Bickerstaff.
The audience included Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict, Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine and Senior Associate Dean Robert M. Randolph.
"Speak Out!!" was coordinated by seniors Zhelinrentice L. Scott of the Undergraduate Association's Multicultural Awareness Committee, Marlon B. Francis, Geno White and Jonathan White, and freshman Kasetta Coleman. Other sponsors included the African Students Association, Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Tau Omega, the Black Students Union, the Black Graduate Student Association, the Caribbean Club, Color Creations, the MIT Haitian Alliance, Mujeres Latinas, the MIT chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Phi Delta Upsilon, the Social Justice Cooperative and outgoing Undergraduate Association President Peter Shulman.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 9, 2001.