Letters to the Editor

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: The June 8 letter to the editor, “Maintaining Curriculum Standards Depends on Admissions Criteria,” suggested that the reduction of the physics and calculus core requirement from two years to one year was a recent occurrence. In fact, the requirement was reduced in 1964, not “a short time ago.” The Tech previously published a correction in response to a similarly misleading statement in a May 11 letter (http://www-tech.mit.edu/V127/N26/correction.html).

MIT Policies Towards the RIAA

I am writing today to clarify two points attributed to me in the article “RIAA Pre-Litigation Letters Sent to MIT” that was published in The Tech on May 8, 2007.

Information Services and Technology maintains a database of IP addresses assigned to MIT users. While we are formulating more specific policies about how long we will keep that information, that period is not presently limited only to 30 days.

When MIT receives a valid legal notice that requires keeping information in the database of IP addresses longer than we normally would retain it, we of course are required to comply. What constitutes a valid legal notice depends on the circumstances, for which we get legal advice. A pre-litigation settlement letter is addressed to the individual associated with an IP address that the RIAA claims engaged in illegal file-sharing, and tells that person to preserve the evidence on his or her computer that relates to file sharing. We have been advised by MIT’s lawyers that a pre-litigation settlement letter is not a valid legal notice that would require MIT to preserve information longer than we would have kept it if we had not received that letter.

MIT Network Manager

Big-Money Finance Jobs Won’t Change The World

I agree wholeheartedly with Joia Ramchandani’s idea [The Tech, May 15, “Do Good, Get Rich”] that MIT graduates should be encouraged to “marry our technical competence with societal needs and some basic business sense”. Doing so encourages the sort of innovation that will benefit both our industries and society. However, working at Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch or a hedge fund achieves neither. Bill Gates, Pierre Omidyar, and Steve Case are inventors. They make things that you and I use daily, and have become wealthy for it. But developing complicated derivatives for high wealth investors, while perhaps intellectually and financially rewarding, does not achieve a socially useful goal. Graduates wanting to become rich and save the world ought to first ask themselves what are society’s problems. I’ve a feeling lack of financial managers with a world class technical education is not one of them.

Department of Political Science

Maintaining Curriculum Standards Depends on Admissions Criteria

In his letter, Theodore J. Sheskin ’62 (The Tech, May 11, “Please Do Not Water Down An MIT Education”) reminds us that the two year physics and calculus core requirement for all students that was in place as early as 1949 was reduced to only one year of each a short time ago, and that now, only a few years hence, it may be reduced to one semester of physics and one year of calculus.

I read of this reduction in light of the recent exposure of MIT’s current admissions policies. In its April 27 news article, The Tech wrote, “[The recently resigned Dean of Admissions Marilee] Jones was said to advocate for less emphasis on applicants with perfect [academic] scores,” and, “encouraging students to enjoy life.” The Tech, in an editorial May 4, questions, “Whether she has traded competency for diversity in the quality of the incoming class…” A May 1 letter by Daniel J. Wendel G said “Each of us was admitted under socially responsible admissions policies.” Socially responsible does not sound to me like intellectual top gun. A letter from The new Interim Director of Admissions, Stuart Schmill ’86, says that the procedure “has been basically the same for more than fifty years,” referring not to the criteria but to the process. The dramatic rise in female enrollment clearly required a change in criteria. He adds, “to enroll… those who are best matched to MIT’s culture,” leaving one to wonder if the enrollees are perhaps mismatched to the intellectual demands of the curriculum.

Such talk would seem to be grist for The Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons. In fact, it is. The fourth paragraph of their Final Report says, “we review changes in three major domains that constitute the raw material with which the faculty works.” Of these three, the third domain is “the prior preparation and aspirations of students.” A reading of the Summary Report offers no commentary about the preparation of incoming students. The Summary of Principle Recommendations includes nothing of reference or instruction for the Admissions Department. Apparently the interests and abilities of entering students has considerably evolved during the past five or ten years, but there is no evidence that the UEC Task Force explicitly considered this possibility during its several years of study.

The curriculum’s science content will have to be lowered regularly if overt steps are not taken to properly match the selection of incoming students to the demands of the established curriculum. In time, if such adverse change continues, it will become irreversible.