Letters to the Editor

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: Because of an editing error, a March 2 letter from Noel Elman, PhD ran under the headline “MIT Complicit in Holocaust Denial,” which conveys misleading impressions of the author’s opinions; the headline should have been, "MIT Allows Disgraceful Forum Speakers".

MIT Complicit in Holocaust Denial

My name is Noel (Noah) Elman, I am a post-doctoral associate at MIT. My wife and I recently moved from Israel to do research at this famous institution about 7 months ago. I am compelled to write this letter as I see it as my moral obligation to convey my deepest ever possible disappointment at MIT after the Forum titled “Foreign Policy and Social Justice: A Jewish View, a Muslim View” was held in this prestigious institution.

All of my life I dreamed of coming to do research at MIT. All of my life, I dreamed of sharing the rooms of this renowned institute with the people that have been able to change the world, my heroes. People that have constantly thought of humanity. People that have intimately contemplated the past, and have strived for a brighter future. People that want to make a profound difference. And I have been blessed to do research with an amazing faculty, amazing students, amazing co-workers with strong work ethics, with strong belief in humanity. My dream of being part of this idyllic place was happening, was really taking place, and it was beautiful.

Today my dream has been completely shattered into small and insignificant pieces, fragments and shrapnel incrusted in my heart. My dream has been damaged beyond repair. The strongest sorrow and disappointment has invaded every single cell of my body, my mind, and my soul after this monstrous MIT-sponsored episode. My dream has become the worst of my nightmares.

The only words that continue resonating in my mind are “why” and “how;” over and over again creating this endless and hurtful cacophony. Why does MIT, the place of so many dreams, decide to hurt humanity so much? And how did the unthinkable occur?, leaving the last shred of hope torn into small twisting hot metals, full of barbwire, full of suffocating smoke, full of faces of children full of sorrow, praying to G-D, praying for G-D, for humanity, and praying to History not to ever forget them.

Dismay, sorrow do I feel for what has happened in this institution: by honoring these degenerate monsters; by promulgating the lies of destruction; and by committing the worst horrible sin of all: teaching the lies to the brightest and bravest generations of the future.

MIT has left the door ajar to listen to these monsters that deny the history of my people, the existence of my family, the existence of the worst ever crime in the entire human history.

It is so painful that I feel internally repulsed and disgusted to witness this insane reality.

I am compelled to say until the last bit of strength left in my life that:

The Holocaust happened, six million Jews died. And we mourned, mourn, and will always mourn, and we shall never forget what happened, or collaborate with our silence, or with any form of passiveness. And we shall never ever forgive.

MIT has undeniably become an accomplice. Dr. Hockfield, as the head of this institution, unfortunately you have undeniably become responsible and accountable for what has happened.

This is not just another controversial forum, this is not a mishap that slipped through the cracks. The slavery and destruction of my people has been promoted and accepted in the rooms of this famous institution, accepted as a form of controversy. The distorted academic pretext led to the claim that this is just another democratic discussion in a vast sea of ideas. The destruction of my people has been promoted for discussion as mere exchanges in points of view, shamefully sponsored by one of the most scientifically advanced institutions on Earth.

MIT has damaged its reputation irreversibly, and undeniably desecrated its most fundamental mission: educating their children.

It is not possible now to heal the wound, but to treat the deep scar, and only do what is right: Teaching The Truth about the Holocaust, Eradicating its Denial; Opening an investigative commission to understand why and how MIT became an accomplice of this monstrous event. And humbly requesting your public apology.

Postdoctoral Associate

Wyne Supports One-Sided Debate

Imagine that you could pick two speakers to come to MIT to share their views on the contentious subject of abortion. Who would you pick, and what types of views would these people hold? If you’re like most rational, intelligent people you’d pick one pro-life speaker and one pro-choice speaker, to show both sides of the issue and to generate genuine dialogue throughout the student body.

However, if your name was Ali S. Wyne, you’d actually choose two pro-life speakers: one Muslim, and one Jew.

Wyne’s column in last Friday’s issue of The Tech defending his choice of speakers on Israel is ridiculous. It comes to the conclusion that we can portray only one side of the debate (anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist) simply because the speakers are of different religions. Wyne even has the chutzpah to say he’s increasing the dialogue on campus. Yeah, right.

Greenberg writes a blog on Jewish life at Indiana University, where he is a student.

Silence is the Problem

I share many of the concerns voiced by alumnus Barun Singh in last week’s Tech (“The Other Side to Racism”), but disagree with Mr. Singh’s diagnosis.

The problem of silence and reduced discussion because of fear on issues such as race is important and far-reaching. An academic institution in particular requires the free flow of ideas, and importantly the ability to disagree and argue as a path towards finding better solutions. In some ways, the silence around race or diversity issues more generally becomes its own problem preventing progress on those very issues.

The example of the GSC Diversity Committee resolution raised by Mr. Singh is a good one. Few would argue against giving the graduate student community a voice in the many Institute decisions regarding recruitment and retention of graduate students and efforts to promote a more diverse community. That, in essence, is the goal of the proposed GSC Diversity Committee.

That graduate students who share this goal felt silenced from suggesting improvements in how the GSC actually works towards it is an indicator of the poor climate for discussing these issues at MIT ­— an indicator of how much work needs to be done.

The “sided” conceptualization of the resolution in particular, and these types of problems more generally, along with the entailed personalizing of the participants as either racist, non-racist, race-baiter, etc. belies social reality and stymies problem solving.

Holding differing views on how to best represent graduate student interests in MIT’s diversity efforts makes students neither racists nor race-baiters. And the differences get resolved through discussion, not name-calling. In this recent case, the common goal and interest of all graduate students at MIT were ill-served by the silence and lack of discussion that resulted. But honestly, the damaging silence that results from a charge of “racist,” whether the charge is voiced, perceived, or just feared, is hardly repaired by a “race-baiter” riposte.

The solution is in working towards more discussion, more voices, more constructive and respectful argument, not less. Getting there won’t happen by accident or by fortuitous social drift, but rather by the concerted efforts of members of the community. Organizing such efforts would improve their likely effectiveness - again a fundamental goal of the proposed GSC Diversity Committee.

It is clear that should the GSC choose to form such a committee, promoting more communication and even difficult discussions among graduate students, graduate student groups, and the MIT community in general would need to be a major focus of its efforts.

Rubineau is a member of the GSC Task Force on Diversity and the GSC ad hoc Diversity Committee.

Singh Ignores Prevalence of Racism

For many underrepresented minority individuals, America has never been the “land of opportunity” that other members of our society would claim that it to be. The opportunity to enter MIT, specifically, and higher education, generally, isn’t a guaranteed life step for many of us. Moreover, the chances of an African American, Latino American, or Native American entering professorship are well below those of individuals who are not Native American, Latino American, or African American.

In the Feb. 23 issue of The Tech, Barun Singh states that “Professor James Sherley’s hunger strike” and “charges of racism against MIT” were the catalysts for a conversation about race at MIT. Although these have been significant events, it must be pointed out that many people within the underrepresented minority student/faculty/administrative community at MIT (and even individuals outside this community) have spent years fighting the still present and dangerous inequalities that exist at MIT and in higher education. From Clarence Williams, to Shirley Jackson, to Desiree Ramirez — scores of people have faithfully dedicated precious time at MIT to addressing the very prevalent inadequacies related to student body racial equality, faculty racial composition, and the prevalence of attitudes about race that often serve to ignore the needs of underrepresented minority groups rather than make things equal. Professor Sherley, not to diminish his actions and statements, was not the first member of the MIT community to confront racial inequality (and, sadly, he will not be the last).

In his article, Mr. Singh made the argument that Professor Sherley and the GSC diversity committee have been “race-baiting” and using “racial hyperbole.” It is not clear how such an argument can be justified. Race is a critical component of Professor Sherley’s social identity in the United States, for which he has no control. Additionally, an individual can relate the struggle of their present day situation to the hardships of similar people in the past, but calling this comparison “racial hyperbole” is not necessarily accurate. If the articulation of the relationship between present and past strikes up emotion, so be it, but that does not take away from the fact that a situation like Professor Sherley’s extends from the rootedness of years of oppression of certain groups of people in the United States. For someone else (in this case Mr. Singh) to describe Professor Sherley’s relationship to race as one that can be controlled (i.e. “injected”) is an absurd assertion. In reality, Professor Sherley’s actions and articulation of present day struggle are a legitimate continuation of struggles that his ancestors undertook decades and centuries ago.

It should be noted that Professor Sherley is not the first underrepresented minority scholar/faculty member to be brushed away from academic departments at the Institute. Read Dr. Clarence William’s book: Technology and the Dream. It offers the reader various glimpses of African American scholars who have entered and exited the doors of MIT. Some state very candidly that certain departments at MIT did not want them to become tenured faculty or faculty at all.

Mr. Singh states in his article that “minorities fighting racism cannot afford to squander the good will of those sympathetic [I think he meant “empathetic”] to their cause” and that “MIT routinely conducts surveys to gauge the sentiment of minorities in the service of promoting a safe and welcoming environment for all members of the community.” Anyone who is “sympathetic” (“empathetic”) to what underrepresented minorities are fighting will not leave the “bandwagon” when confronted with their own personal inadequacies or fears. About the “surveys” — if they existed, they can not address, in any substantial way, the inadequacies that are socially constructed within the MIT community or within the greater realm of higher education.

Although Barun Singh articulates his points with clarity and honesty, he is void of a more nuanced understanding of the history (and present climate) of race at MIT. Professor Sherley’s appeal to the common sense of his colleagues and America is a testament that the roots of bigotry and inequality have not been dug up from the soil of the American psyche. Mr. Singh’s assertion that he and others might be “afraid” to share their opinions about racial inequalities is not a testament to their vulnerability but a warning that they must more closely examine and become intimate with the history and current social/political climate of “race” in the United States.

UNH Biodiesel Efforts Safe

In Kristina Holton’s article “Used Grease to Power ShuttlesBiodiesel@MIT in Top 10 For mtvU, GE Ecomagination Challenge” on Feb. 23, she writes, “Amanda C. Graham, student administrator for the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, said she is helping Biodiesel@MIT meet safety standards that similar biodiesel programs, such as one at the University of New Hampshire, have failed to meet.”

Biodiesel efforts at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) meet all safety standards and requirements; they always have, and they always will. We consider safety along with sustainability right from the start as we plan and implement such efforts. Therefore, I urge you to run a correction to this inaccuracy in The Tech.

UNH is in the process of setting up a biodiesel microprocessor at one of our on-campus farms to convert used vegetable oil from our on-campus dining areas into biodiesel for fueling off-road equipment, such as tractors, and for heating greenhouses or farm buildings. Along with working with our UNH Office of Environmental Health and Safety, we and the company from whom we purchased the microprocessor - MPB Bioenergy, LLC, the same company supplying MIT’s new processor - are working closely with not one but two Fire Protection Engineers, with local and state fire marshals, with state electrical and plumbing inspectors, and with our own UNH Facilities to ensure that our set-up is safe and efficient and that it meets all state and local codes. We are investing the time to create a model that can be replicated by others in the state.

Ironically, Ms. Holton’s article fails to mention one of the larger real world issues regarding local production and use of biodiesel — namely, the federal and state excise tax implications of the use of biodiesel in licensed on-road vehicles. MIT may wish to check the tax regulations regarding use of its produced biodiesel in on-road vehicles. The biodiesel produced at UNH will be used in off-road agricultural equipment or wholesaled to licensed fuel distributors.

On the consumption side, UNH has a track record of safe large-scale biodiesel use. In coordination with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT), we host the first state-owned biodiesel fuel site. Since August 2006, we have begun conversion of our 60+ diesel transit vehicles and on-campus diesel fleet to B20. Our transit fleet, which provides just under 1 million passenger trips per year, leads the way statewide in using B20 and compressed natural gas in the majority of its vehicles. And UNH has received of $3 million of federal funds for its alternative fuel fleet programs. All of these efforts are part of UNH’s Climate Education Initiative and the University’s commitment to being a Climate Protection Campus that recently signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. I would invite you and your readers to learn more at http://www.sustainableunh.unh.edu.

While I’m excited to read about all the wonderful biodiesel and other sustainability efforts on-going at MIT — and applaud your successes — I’m disappointed to see this inaccurate “ding” against UNH. Universities have been leaders in moving towards the use of alternative fuels — and we break ground dealing with code, finance and research issues every day. We should share our lessons learned with each other and reward our mutual successes.

Since I’m sure The Tech is committed to fact-checked and well-researched reporting, I do hope to see a correction to this article run soon.

Cleaves is associate director of the UNH Office of Sustainability.