Pushing the envelope has always been, and will always be, a key part of what any Tech student strives to do. When any of us hears the word “challenge,” a primal sense immediately awakens within us. The zeal of youth, accompanied by brazen optimism and an unbridled imagination, whispers to us constantly, repeating the same thing: “You’re at Georgia Tech. You can do that.”
It’s no secret that the ultimate challenge to any Tech student, apart from that elusive 4.0, is stealing the T from Tech Tower. Hence, though the theft on the morning of March 18, 2014 may have stepped on some administrative toes, at its heart, the act was one of courageous ingenuity.
Currently, the perpetrator is awaiting trial by the Office of Student Integrity and may be tried by the Undergraduate Judiciary Cabinet (UJC), which recommended suspension the last time students attempted to steal the T.
Is suspension really the best choice here?
Saying that stealing the T is a tradition may seem awkward, but it is completely fitting. After the “Magnificent Seven” first stole the five-foot-tall T in 1969, groups of students have attempted the theft many times, to varying degrees of success. The act remains a shining part of Tech culture. John Patrick Crecine, the President of Georgia Tech from 1987 to 1994, praised the tradition, saying “I think stealing the ‘T’ off the Tech Tower is among the all time greatest rituals.”
Comments on Tech’s official Twitter page and on the Reddit discussion about the theft illustrate unified alumni and student support of the perpetrator. Several alumni praised him for his ingenuity; one student commenter lamented that “this tradition is so frowned upon by the administration now.”
Indeed, since the last successful theft in 1999, the Institute has cracked down, making stealing the T punishable by expulsion. According to former Institute President Gerald Wayne Clough, this policy was made, in part, due to the “incredibly expensive liability litigation” Tech could have to face after a possible accident.
Sure, this policy is great at protecting against the potential of dangerous falls and the possibility of injury to other students or to campus fixtures, but let’s just remember one thing: nobody has been hurt here, and the T has been safely recovered. Moreover, the crime is completely victimless. Comparing a 50-year-old campus prank to robbing a bank is a ridiculous extrapolation; at worst, our campus will be subjected to a few chuckles while students walk by the newly-christened “Ech Tower.”
The perpetrator had to bypass pressure-sensitive roof tiles, fibre optic cables that made him easy to spot and work quickly enough to avoid triggering an alarm system. His work suggests technical finesse, not reckless endangerment.
The perpetrator shouldn’t be exonerated completely; that would be far too idealistic to expect, and it might even encourage petty vandalism. Suspension, however, is an extreme solution that is only worthy of a far more serious offense.
Instead, the UJC should recommend less damaging punishments such as community service. The administration should hold a comprehensive hearing with the perpetrator to determine how he stole the T to help them prevent future thefts. Finally, in accordance with tradition, the T should be returned at the next homecoming game.
Ultimately, the perpetrator’s intentions boil down to just that: tradition. Stealing the T isn’t a simple, petty crime; it’s a tradition. It’s a challenge posed to all Ramblin’ Wrecks as soon as they step onto our wonderful, crazy, sleepless campus, and at least in my experience, completing a challenge isn’t followed by suspension.