Chatting with Chomsky in Winthrop

From his cushy red armchair in front of the fireplace in Winthrop’s Tonkens room, MIT professor Noam Chomsky answered questions on topics from the Middle East conflict to American politics last Tuesday. The established linguist also known for his controversial political views responded to questions regarding the United States’ place in a multipolar world, the relative dangers of radical Christianity and radical Islam, the latter resulting in a five-minute debate.

Chomsky’s talk, which saw about 70 attendees and followed a question-and-answer format, was the first in a series at Winthrop House organized by House Master Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. and the House Senior Common Room. Although the first two lectures featured political figures—the second speaker was former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis—Sullivan said that he hopes to expand beyond political figures in the future and also bring in entertainment, sports, and business leaders. According to Sullivan, the series is intended to increase student involvement with the SCR. But ever the competitors, some  Winthropians saw it as more.

“I think it’s a great addition to House life,” Winthrop resident Jonathan M. Padilla ’12 said. “We’re definitely going to build this to compete with what Kirkland House does.”

Next-door-neighbor Kirkland, which has been hosting “Conversations with Kirkland” since 2002, doesn’t seem to be picking up whatever Winthrop just threw down. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” KirklandHouse Master Tom Conley said.

Peter V. Emerson, the Kirkland House Scholar who recruits guests for “Conversations with Kirkland,” agreed with Conley’s insistence on peace, saying that he was in favor of anything that enriches the student experience. “I think we all should be about you—about the students,” Emerson said.