Volume 96, Issue 100
Tuesday, April 8, 2003

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My opinion: you can kiss my ass

From the far lane
Emmett Macfarlane
News Editor

MIT sucks.

At least, that's how many media, information and technoculture students interpreted a column I wrote criticizing the program.

The reaction was fierce. The Gazette received dozens of letters, too many to print. The MIT Students' Council posted a discussion board where dozens more logged on – one girl even logged on just to say she wanted to punch me in the face. The column was on the agenda of a faculty meeting, and dissected in several MIT classes.

At first, I was extremely proud. My opinion piece had generated a huge volume of discussion, the very thing a student newspaper strives for.

Then I started to think about what was being said. The MIT kids weren't discussing, they were reacting.

The misconceptions spread like wildfire. I was accused of only having taken a half credit and then slamming the program (I am a fourth-year, combined honours MIT and political science student). I was accused of just being bitter because of poor grades – I'm on the dean's list, like every other MIT student (another problem with the program). Sadly, I was also accused of being biased – of course I was biased, it was an opinion piece.

The problem with the lack of substantive debate stemmed from the fact that the column put all the MIT students on the defensive. I was attacking their program, essentially calling their four years of university a waste.

Of course, that's not entirely true. The reason I wrote the piece in the first place is because MIT has the potential to be an amazing program, unique in Canada, and I wanted to point out what I felt in an honest, though admittedly blunt, way. Some of the rather pathetic misrepresentations that came out only validated what the column said.

There were a lot of other topics to touch upon, and my subdued, subtle writing seemed to inflame people. It was weird.

For example, some readers weren't too happy when I compared People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to al Qaeda. Others weren't impressed when I questioned the genetic purity of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. And hippies took exception to being called bastards.

My "diplomatically phrased" columns have generally instigated a lot of feedback, mostly in the form of hate mail. Interestingly, the hate mail would often generate real debate over issues I brought to the forefront.

However, it's incredible how touchy people on a university campus get over relatively controversial issues, as if this isn't the appropriate forum for genuine debate. Sure, some of the columns I've written have been rants or "outspoken" discussions, but throughout the year I've wondered why some university students are so thin-skinned.

Even members of the University Students' Council have taken an irrational view of legitimate criticisms this year. Oh well.

So, to the councillor who said "Not that fucking Emmett!" when he heard I was next year's editor-in-chief, and who gave my co-editor Chris Webden something called an "equity boo-urns," I guess I'll end this column on a note representative of my opinions this year. Kiss my ass.

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2002 THE GAZETTE