We are excited to launch a series of recordings that are excerpted from Mens et Mania: The MIT Nobody Knows and voiced by its author, Samuel Jay Keyser. Samuel Jay Keyser is Professor Emeritus in MIT’s Department of Linguistics and Philosophy and Special Assistant to the Chancellor. In Mens et Mania, Jay gives us glimpses into MIT's culture during his time there (beginning in 1977), including his part in negotiating student grievances--from the legality of showing Deep Throat in a dormitory to the uproar caused by the arrests of students for antiapartheid demonstrations--and explaining "hacking" and the specal student-faculty bond at MIT.
We will post a new recording each Wednesday for eight weeks (up through November 30th) along with a mix of Q&As with Jay about the recordings and passages from the book.
Without further ado, here's the first recording--an excerpt from Chapter 1: The Wrecking Ball--and a brief Q&A with Jay.
Do you think that watching your old office be destroyed gave you a sense of closure, or did it make you want to further your presence at MIT in new territories/fields?
Definitely the former; a sense of closure. As it happened, I had taken a walk through Building 20 just after the workers had festooned its insides with plastic barriers that made it look like a model of the internal organs of a sea monster. They were making safe workspaces for themselves.That way they could dismantle the building without suffering the dangers of asbestos inhalation. I walked all over the building, saying goodbye, as it were. A chapter in MIT’s history was about to close. The wrecking ball turned the page.
Throughout Mens et Mania, you make various remarks about the importance of buildings at MIT. How do you think your attitude toward the seven years of experiences you had at the “rat’s nest of a building,” or “Magic Incubator” compares to the students’ feelings toward their housing, as you describe in Chapter 10?
I hadn’t thought of it that way. But it is a terrific comparison. Thank you for that. When I think of MIT now, I don’t think of teak row or the Stata Center, I think of Building 20. Whenever I go to the faculty lunchroom, I make a point of running my hand along the wooden walls that were constructed from Building 20 timber. I don’t think there is enough nostalgia at MIT. But that is not surprising in an institution devoted to pushing the barriers of knowledge forward. The past is always wrong.