I’m a Cambridge resident, and I grew up here. I think the legal clinic is a good idea, simply because there are too many good ideas coming out of MIT that can be misunderstood, and the quality of ideas is so good that they very frequently do branch away from campus.
The legal clinic could help after something shitty happens, and has the potential to prevent something shitty from happening, if consulted before an event.
Also helpful before an event is better awareness, on the part of students and external members of the community and law enforcement. MIT is an urban campus, and with that comes particular challenges: what’s normal and acceptable at MIT isn’t always normal and acceptable outside of MIT.
I’ve noticed this before: MIT students (and Harvard students, but in a different way) lacking a certain level of awareness of their surroundings, or more specifically, unknowingly pretending that they’re on campus when they’re not. And this isn’t to discourage makers showcasing their things outside of campus. But off-campus demands things of makers that on-campus doesn’t.
Similarly, you’d think that people — community members and law enforcement — near Cambridge campuses have seen everything, and are used to occasionally seeing weird things. And we are. But not always. (Remember Henry Louis Gates Jr. getting arrested by Cambridge police on his own doorstep, steps away from Harvard’s campus?). While you can rely on Cambridge people (and the Boston area more generally) to be accepting, flexible, and tolerant, you can’t rely on any specific stranger or situation to be the same. (And for the record, there was nothing weird about the Henry Louis Gates incident, that is, except for the officer perceiving something illegal was going on.)
There’s also an obvious disconnect between MIT’s values and how it sells its “brand” and its actions in situations like this. A school that implicitly and/or explicitly supports its own long history of illegal pranks/hacks and intellectual freedom chooses to not do that in your case and in Aaron Swartz’s case.