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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

Presenting…the 2008 Brass Rat!!! by Melis A. '08

As the only sophomore blogger, it is my duty, no, pleasure, to describe the unveiling of 2008 Brass Rat.

As the only sophomore blogger, it is my duty, no, pleasure, to describe the unveiling of 2008 Brass Rat. Brass Rat? That’s right, MIT has really dreadful rodent problem. To draw attention to this ever-growing infestation, one rat is chosen out of the many scurrying about campus to be brass plated in the MIT Lab for Metallurgy. Just kidding! (‘ll be here all week, bah dam ching!) But, in all seriousness, the Ring Committee really played a prank on us this year.

Actually, the Brass Rat is one of the most recognized rings in the world (and no animals were harmed in the manufacturing process.) Every year, a group of sophomores, formally known as the Ring Committee, are chosen to redesign the ring and add little details that recall memories from the sophomore class’ first two years at the ‘Tute. This has been an MIT tradition since 1929, which was also when Class President C. Brigham Allen proposed the beaver as the official mascot:

“We first thought of the kangaroo which, like Tech, goes forward by leaps and bounds. Then we considered the elephant. He is wise, patient, strong, hard working, and like all those who graduate from Tech, has a good tough hide. But neither of these were American animals. We turned to Mr. Hornaday’s book on the animals of North America and instantly chose the beaver. The beaver not only typifies the Tech, but his habits are peculiarly our own. The beaver is noted for his engineering and mechanical skills and habits of industry. His habits are nocturnal. He does his best work in the dark.”

Though some aspects of the ring always appear by tradition, the Ring Committee works in secrecy and shares their design at the Ring Premiere. Ring Premiere was tonight, in Kresge Auditorium. There was a huge line of people waiting (and shivering) outside of Kresge’s doors. Admittedly, this line partially formed because the first 300 in line got a free Ring Premiere t-shirt and shot glass (for apple juice, of course, MIT would never promote drinking.) At 7:00 PM, we were finally allowed inside.

The ceremony began with some speeches and a history of the Brass Rat. The first designs were that of the skylines (on the sides of the ring) and hacker’s map (on the inside.)

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Next, the class shank was revealed: (from the official Brass Rat website)
“The focus of the Class Shank is the Great Dome. Its head-on view is inspired by the original 1930s class ring. The Dome, in all its grandeur, is where we first congregated for our class picture and is where we will come together once again to graduate. On the top of the Dome is our class number, 141, in binary. ‘Massachvsetts Institvte of Technology’ is held onto the Dome by screws that symbolize how students feel about the rigorous academics they endure. The clouds above the Dome spell ‘Punt’ and ‘Tool,’ corresponding with our constant fight to achieve balance in our social and academic lives. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and a symbol of MIT’s computing system, stands in Killian Court. An owl is perched on her shoulder, as is traditional in classic mythology. Athena offers the globe in her hand, illustrating both that the world is for our taking as well as MIT’s profound international influence. In honor of Susan Hockfield, the Institute’s first female president, Athena dons presidential regalia with five bars on her right sleeve and a sash. Our class year appears at the bottom of the class shank. The font and placement are the same as the original 1930s ring.”

I loved the dome design, as well as the addition of Athena, but I would have liked it to say “2008” instead. At this point I’m just being picky.
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Next, the seal shank was revealed: “The seal pictures a scholar with a book and a worker at an anvil, symbolizing the union of knowledge and research with mechanical arts. The figures stand atop the Institute’s Latin motto Mens et Manus. The Latin motto Mens et Manus — ‘Mind and hand’ — and the two volumes, Science and Art, on the pedestal also reflect the ideal of cooperation between knowledge and practical science. The unadulterated MIT seal is central to the seal side of the ring. This has been the official Institute seal since 1863. In the upper right-hand corner are oak and laurel leaves, symbols of strength and distinction. Juxtaposed with the natural imagery is a man-made object: a circuit board. The circuit board is a representation of technology, progress, and innovation. The ‘MIT’ below the seal is stylized to mimic the 1930s ring.”
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There was a lot of anticipation for the design of the seal shank. Last year, a huge controversy began when the “worker” on the left was replaced by a woman, to represent 2007’s even gender ratio. To prevent such controversy from reoccurring, all of the sophomores received a survey at the beginning of the year where we were able to voice our opinions. When the image of the 2008 Seal Shank was shown, there was a rather loud applause. I found it a little upsetting, since most people’s objection to the woman figure was that it “broke with tradition.” It seems that, at a place like MIT, we’re encouraged to break the mold and think out of the box. It’s distressing to see that some of my classmates are not as open-minded as I thought. If I’m misinterpreting the situation, leave a comment. In any case, this year the traditional seal was used (therefore, no woman.)
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Ok, so at this point the only aspect of the ring that had not yet been unveiled was the bezel, which is the top of the ring and the most visible portion. When the following design was projected, I didn’t know what to say:

A FOOD TRUCK (sure, the Chinese food truck is pretty great and all, but do I want to remember their General Tao’s chicken for the rest of my life)? A FENCE (with tourists behind it)? A weird beaver that looks a little too happy? What have they done? Did anyone actually think this was a good idea? Why are people clapping? I can’t wear this ring to interviews! After a detailed explanation, Sam Weiss announced that the design was in fact a joke! Here’s the actual bezel:

“As the focal point of the bezel, the beaver is larger than in past years and in strong relief. Like the original 1930s beaver, our beaver faces left, holds a branch, and sits on a pile of sticks. At one end of the branch, four leaves form the number 141, as we are the one hundred forty-first class to graduate from the Institute. The branch transitions into a diploma, signifying the culmination of our four years at MIT. The beaver sits by its natural habitat, a river. The bed of sticks is part of the Charles River bank and hides ‘IHTFP.’ In the background is a panorama of the Institute, complete with Kresge, the Domes, and the Green Building. Because students cross the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge frequently, the bridge is prominent; it connects MIT to Boston and the outside world. Behind the bridge, a boat representing Ocean Engineering departs into the horizon. The sail takes the form of a DNA helix and is symbolic of the new Biological Engineering major.”

Hurray, another successful Ring Premiere has come and gone. Congratulations to all of Ring Comm and thank you for your hard work. The ring is simple but meaningful, I will be proud to wear it for the rest of my life.

Ring Delivery, where we actually receive our class rings, is on April 22 and will be held at the Boston Public Library. It promises to be a very classy event and one of the only times that the entire ’08 class gets to be together.

Mitra was on Ring Committee last year. See Matt’s entry from last year’s Ring Premiere!

10 responses to “Presenting…the 2008 Brass Rat!!!”

  1. MITmom says:

    Congratulations! And thanks for posting this. That’s pretty cool that the rings are for sophomores. I just assumed they came later. It must make you feel like there is an end eventually. I thought the joke one with the food truck was pretty funny wink Can you help me see the “hacker’s map”? Is it hidden in the design somewhere (maybe the twigs?), or is it inside the ring where it cannot be seen, or was that part of the joke one?

  2. Melis says:

    Sorry for the confusion! The hacker’s map is located inside the ring (the part that rubs against your finger)… I will try to scan and post a picture =)

  3. Laura says:

    Wait…so the ’08 ring does not have a woman on it? I think that’s what you meant by that, but it’s not totally clear.

    People are lame. Bleh.

  4. Mitra says:

    Hey Melis,

    Nice entry. I’m glad you’re honest about the parts you like and don’t like; most people are too much of one and not enough of the other.

    I wrote an entry on the 07 Brass Rat design last year — it’s at http://blogs.mit.edu/mitra/posts/6972.aspx

    ttys,

  5. Melis says:

    Laura, yes the ’08 ring does not have a woman on it. Thanks for pointing out that confusion.

    Mitra, I thought I had remembered you writing an entry about Ring Premiere last year but I couldn’t find it, so thanks! I added the link.

  6. alex says:

    the “hacker’s map” is the picture directly above the picture of the class shank (with the big 08 on it). it looks like a bunch of random lines, but when compared to an actual map of campus one can see the outline of the buildings.

  7. shen says:

    The Class of 2008 Ring Comm did a very nice job of designing the ring. I especially liked the Athena touch! Neat. But it’s really too bad that a lot of people objected to last year’s female worker.

  8. Jessie says:

    Cool: Athena, the binary, the DNA helix, the circuit board, the screws, the course 13 boat.

    Nice, but standard: Punt/tool, IHTFP, the hacker’s map.

    Lame: The misguided “traditional” focus, lack of symbolism in general, lack of much symbolism specific to the ’08s. The fact that people cared so much that there not be a woman on the ring.

  9. Sam says:

    Melis! I love your review; I didn’t even know this blog thing existed.

    So in response to why people don’t like the woman… If you go to the “Graphic Identity” page http://web.mit.edu/graphicidentity/seal/ you’ll see that MIT takes its seal pretty seriously. There are rules against stretching it, dismantling it, making it too small to be seen, etc. From what we heard in surveys and at the study break, people didn’t want the woman on their ring because its not on the actual seal. Does that make you feel slightly better? Also, if you want to update the spoof on your site, we have it posted now.

    litb

  10. Melis says:

    Ladies and gentleman, my blog has been read and commented on by a real live Ring Comm member =) Thanks for the info, Sam!