Oct 20, 2008
Posted in: Life & Culture
The dust settles.
We the class of 2012 waged epic battle tonight.
It all began with the 2012 Class Council emailing everyone with the results of the class sweatshirt design contest.* In that email, they also sent a link to a Google Docs spreadsheet where we were supposed to fill in our names and sizes. I realized right away what they had done. They expected us to treat a completely unmoderated shared document with respect and dignity.
*To be perfectly clear, I don't want to discuss the merits of the hoodie designs. I just want to share a fun experience.
Of course, this did not happen. I wrote a message in the blank space to the right of all the ordering data. I don't remember what it was exactly, but it was something to the effect of “You should have used a Google Form instead of a Google Spreadsheet.” This was immediately deleted by someone, so I posted it again. People caught on, and all of a sudden people were going off on semi-anonymous tangents about how they didn't like the design.
Minutes later, every freshman got another email: “Since people are messing with the spreadsheet, there is now a FORM you MUST fill out if you want a sweatshirt.” So they deleted my advice, and then took heed of it. Whatever, anything to make the administration run more smoothly. Except that the link to the form didn't work. For anyone.
No big deal so far. No one revolting, just a couple of data-entry failures on the part of our class council. Then one brave soul went where no one else dared to go at the time. He dissented to the entire class of 2012 in a very politely worded email about how he disagreed with the choice of design. Another person replied back, agreeing. The only other option for the night being homework , I did the same, pointing out the complete lack of transparency in the selection process (Note also that I am now blogging about this; I really don't feel like working right now).
And so it continued, the messages getting more insulting as the thread snowballed. Someone made a secure poll where we could vote on whether or not we approved the design. Of course, people spammed the class of 2012 mailing list with spam against spamming, the irony completely lost on them. Someone pointed out that with so much dissent, our class leaders should at least reconsider the sweatshirt design. Another retorted, correctly, that this was a biased sample—only dissenters would get involved with the flame war.
Then our class president emailed me personally, saying pretty much that the decision had been made and that the executive board won't be reconsidering the decision. I posted a link to a design that my friend had entered to the contest, and a fair amount of people agreed that they would prefer his 300-themed design over the one that was chosen. In sending that design to the class of 2012, I effectively doubled the number of entrants to the contest that our class had seen (the other being, of course, the winner). This point resonated and I got a few favorable responses.
A faction of students set up a meeting place and time to discuss the production of their own independent design. The war also went on a mini-tangent of people cooking up copy pasta of entire Dostoevsky works from Project Gutenberg.The thread by now had garnered 80-some responses, and then the 2012 president went back on his word.
In a truly great show of compassion, sensibility, and reason, our president emailed his fellow classmates. He informed us that he has called a special meeting for our class council to discuss what action should now be taken. He admitted that there were mistakes in the way the selection was handled and that all decisions from now on will be more transparent.
For this, I would like to thank the president. He showed great humility and poise in dealing with massive hoardes of angry classmates. He owned up to the council's mishandling of the situation and he sincerely apologized. Frankly, I feel comfortable that future decisions regarding our class will be in safe hands.
Because you see, we've learned something today. If you disagree with your leadership, speak up! Get the snowball moving! I'm really grateful that the one person spoke up at the very beginning, because we started a flame war, yes, but at the end of the day, we did change something. The class council will at least reconsider not only the decision, but also the decision-making process. Even if we end up with the same sweatshirt, we did something tonight that will alter our next four years here at MIT. Not to mention the fun of a great flame war.
And that's all anyone can ask for, isn't it?