Perhaps the most famous of Tech's landmarks is the Tech Tower, home of the "T." It put the 'T' in T-book, once associated us with the name "Golden Tornadoes," and has stood as a figure in the campus consciousness. Actually, there are 4 letters (TECH), five feet tall and white and gold, on each side of the tower, but it's the T on the side facing I-75 that has a world wide reputation. As long as the letters have been up (most of the century), students have sought fame and glory in stealing them and leaving the ones they steal for the college president to find.
Generally, in the past thieving the T never brought major charges on students. The T would come down, be found, go back up, and life would continue. Why shouldn't this tradition have an easy policy? The entire alumni body can remember their own days at Tech, most of them having dreamed of, or succeeded in, stealing it and going down in history. They know what current students are doing, and they respect, or at least sympathize with the effort. As long as no major damages occured, the school had no choice but to permit the wishes of the alumni.
However, over the years, security on the "T" has improved to the point where the letter is connected to a computer at Tech police headquarters on Hemphill Avenue. There are spot welds, fiber optic cables, greased drain pipes, motion sensors, and very patient policemen to contend with. It is, perhaps, one of the most secure objects in the city, including the Federal Reserve Bank. For that reason, recent years have seen a dearth in stealing attempts in general, let alone successful thefts. That's not to say plans for it's taking don't circulate in the campus underground. Full schematics of the Tower can be found, with layouts and descriptions of the security system, if one knows where to look....
Just this year, one group did manage to get to the T, get it off the building, and almost get away with it, except for an anonymous tip to the campus police of the attack. How did these mission impossible hopefuls get past our high-tech security? Bolt cutters and repelling, plain, fast, and simple. When caught, these students and their fraternity had to pay for the costs of the tower's repair (several thousand dollars), a cruel product of security: it too must be repaired.
Nevertheless, you won't find a student on campus without their own plan for stealing it again. The T is our symbol, and will continue to hold a special place in the hearts of students for years to come. Remember that the tradition started before anyone at this school (student or faculty) was alive, and it is as strong as ever.
It is a much bigger deal now than it used to be and the price for getting caught is more severe than in the past. Don't expect just a slap on the wrist. But then, there's nothing worth doing that doesn't have a certain amount of risk involved :)
FYI -- if you want to get the tradition right, here's how to go about doing it:
Take the T on the side facing th highway. If that's already gone, remove the T to the left and work around. When the T's are gone (it has happened), start taking the H's in the same manner. Then go for the E's, and finally the C's. To our knowledge, all of the letters have never been down at once, so that's something for entering freshmen to consider.
Once stolen, put the letter in a public location easily accessible to the President of the Institute (Clough currently).
Back to traditions