Mexico City ideas? (leaving tomorrow)

MIT is having a holiday on Monday and Tuesday and the Boston weather forecast is unappealing…. good excuses for hopping a plane to Mexico City.  I’ve never been there before and would appreciate comments on where to stay and what to see.  My main interests are Pre-Columbian history and artifacts, soaking up the lifestyle, and modern architecture.  I’ll be alone.


[In case you’re curious, I’m not taking my own airplane down to Mexico.  At 150 mph it would take roughly 16 hours to cover the 2000 nautical mile distance.  I have taken the plane into Baja, Mexico and wrote up the experience in http://philip.greenspun.com/flying/baja]

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Should universities permit free speech?

The October 10, 2003 issue of MIT’s student newspaper, the Tech, carried some articles about a group of unfortunate students who decided to hold a ghetto/rap-themed party in their dorm.  The invitation email started “Callin all you playas, pimps, hos, gangstas, and bitches…”.  Various campus functionaries indicated their displeasure at what they viewed as an assault on the sacred principle of diversity. The students immediately issued a craven apology to the community but nonetheless Chuck Vest, the president of MIT, responded by noting that his administration would “deal swiftly and fairly with those responsible for the event.”


Today’s issue of the Tech carries some more invective from the administration directed as these allegedly racist students.


There was no actual evidence of racism by the students holding the party and in fact the only people involved in this dispute who are known to judge others by the color of their skin are the MIT administrators themselves.


A very similar situation occurred in the 1990s at University of California Riverside.  A fraternity held a “South of the Border” party advertised with a poster featuring a sleeping Mexican, complete with sombrero and tequila bottle.  The frat boys were harshly disciplined until a lawyer sued the school, pointing out that (a) half of the fraternity brothers were Mexican-American, and (b) the First Amendment prohibited a state institution from editing the fraternity’s party posters.  A federal judge sided with the students.


So many university administrations have tried to muzzle their students that an entire non-profit organization, http://www.thefire.org, exists to fight back.


Perhaps, however, the university bureaucrats are doing the right thing after all.  The U.S. Constitution guarantees that the government won’t interfere with your right to free speech.  Private employers, however, are free to say “You will continue to receive a paycheck so long as you stay in your cubicle with your head down and your mouth shut.”  Only a tiny fraction of Americans have a practical right to free speech and these are primarily the very rich and the very poor.  A primary mission of a college is to prepare young people for the real world.  Does it really make sense to delude kids into thinking that they can say whatever they want and still have a paycheck and health insurance?  Perhaps it would be better for a university president to address the incoming freshmen thusly… “This is my plantation and if you want to stay here for four years you’ll learn to say ‘Yes, Massah'”.

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