MIT students sure know how to kick off the school year.
Under cover of night, an anonymous group of engineering geniuses recently scaled the campus' iconic Great Dome and installed the first seven notes of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" on temporary scaffolding, cleverly noting the resemblance of its horizontal lines to a blank piece of sheet music.
Greg Steinbrecher/The Tech
This was hardly the first time the dome has been targeted. The pranks, known in MIT parlance as "hacks," are part of a long-standing campus culture that brought a crackdown from administrators last year. The college's media office has a policy of not commenting on hacks, although those caught performing hacks could be fined.
Last May, hackers erected a replica of the Apollo Lunar Module on the dome. And in April, they installed a solar-powered Boston MBTA-style subway car that moved along the wall beneath the dome. On Sept. 11, 2006, hackers placed a 25-foot-long fire truck on the dome to commemorate the fifth year anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
According to a website documenting the history of hacking at MIT, hackers pride themselves on carrying out these engineering feats while leaving the community guessing who was responsible and how they did it.
"Studying under the high-pressure conditions at MIT means students need creative outlets," the site said. "Engaging in humorous and sometimes challenging pranks seems to be one such outlet."
A paper chase at BU
There's going green for environmental purposes. And then there's just plain cheap, some Boston University students say.
They are crying foul this fall after the administration cracked down on the number of pages they could print for free over the university's computer network. While the university has encouraged professors to move their readings and handouts on-line -- which means students would be responsible for printing them out -- it has limited undergraduates to printing to just 100 free pages per semester.
After that, it's 12 cents per page, even though the Kinkos on campus charges just 10 cents a page. Graduate students get 500 sheets; and law students are allocated 1,000 sheets.
Previously, printing was effectively limitless, school officials said.
"I think they're trying too hard to save money," said Jordan Rossman, a sophomore majoring in economics and international relations who used to print out nearly all of his professors' PowerPoint slides to study. "It's pretty ridiculous and frustrating, and in some ways, hampers the whole process of learning."
Now, pretty much the only thing Rossman prints these days are papers he must hand in. Even so, just a month into the school year, he's already 50 pages into his quota.
In the college's defense, printing costs have skyrocketed in recent years as students indiscriminately print out everything under the sun, BU officials said. Nearly 13 million sheets of paper were printed at computer labs managed by the university's technology office, a paper trail that could stretch from Boston to Jacksonville, Fla., and back, according to a BU Today story posted on the school's website.
"A decade or two ago, it was an affordable service for the university to provide," Michael Krugman, associate vice president for information systems and technology, told BU Today. "But as more people did everything electronically, including printing out textbooks delivered online, it became an open-ended liability for us, particularly now as we focus on sustainability."
Channeling justice at Harvard
You don't have to shell out the $30,000-a-year tuition to sit in on one of Harvard University's most popular courses -- "Moral Reasoning 22: Justice."
Nearly 900 Harvard students pack into Sanders Theatre for the introduction to moral and political philosophy class, in which government professor Michael Sandel lectures about the great philosophers and debates contemporary issues like affirmative action, income distribution, and same-sex marriage.
But you can now watch the legendary course from the comfort of your own living room.
Harvard has teamed up with WGBH-TV to produce a new television series to premiere this month on public television stations nationwide. Through an interactive Web site, the series will allow viewers to join in discussion and grapple with the difficult ethical questions posed by students and Sandel during each class.
The 12 one-hour episodes cover such topics as cannibalism and the moral side of murder, motherhood for sale, and putting a price tag on life. Along with discussion boards, the Web site provides discussion guides, quiz questions and readings.
"We're hoping to engage viewers of all ages in a lively experiment in civic dialogue," Sandel said in a written statement.
The Quad is a collection of doings on local campuses. For on-line updates, go to boston.com/MetroDesk and click on The Quad category. To submit tips, contact Tracy Jan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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