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Committee hears student concerns

By Ben Stanger

The MIT Corporation Visiting Committee on Student Affairs held an open meeting with students last Monday as part of a three day examination of the quality of student life.

The committee spent the day discussing student life issues outlined in a report prepared by the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs (ODSA). The evening forum gave students an opportunity to express their concerns to the committee.

The discussion focused on pornography, undergraduate advising, graduate student life, 1:00 am shutdown of MIT parties, and dissatisfaction with treatment of Senior House.

O+ Much of the pornography debate centered around whether such films should be shown at MIT, but some of it concerned the ODSA's involvement in that decision.

Former member of the Ad Hoc Pornography Screening Committee and Lecture Series Committee member Tim S. Bezanson '85 said, "The less the Dean's Office is involved in [the pornography] issue, the better." Several other students said they were "surprised to find that the Dean's Office doesn't treat us like adults."

O+ Some students were disturbed by the fact that parties serving alcohol were being shut down promptly at 1 am. Stewart H. Cobb III '85 said, "I've been here four years; this is the first year parties were stopped at 1 am. I've never seen a reason for this policy and I've never seen it declared as a policy."

Gregg E. Berman '87 said students warned him not to start up trouble following a letter he wrote to The Tech about parties closing at 1 am. "There's something wrong when students have to be afraid of [speaking out]."

O+ Students addressed problems in the freshman and departmental advising program. Diana ben-Aaron '85 complained that her freshman advisor didn't know "a registration form from a 1040 form."

Undergraduate Association Finance Board Chairman Michael A. Vidaurri '85 said the advising problem is even worse for transfer students because transfer students are immediately on grades and have to decide on a major very quickly. Another student said that Course XI professors are so overloaded that they don't have time to handle the students they are assigned each year.

"There's a question of what's more important: the research they're doing or education. I've often found it to be research," said Joseph F. Wagner '86.

O+ Graduate students outlined some of their problems with a letter that proposed solutions. The proposal recommended reopening Ashdown cafeteria and changing the housing selection policy so preference would be given to entering students. The letter stated that the housing program at the University of California at Berkeley made housing available to new students, who need housing the most.

UA President David M. Libby '85 said many student groups suffer from lack of Institute funds. "Honestly, the administration pays lip service to student life and student affairs. What's really needed is more special support for groups like the GSC [Graduate Student Council] ... For a group like the GSC, $75,000 a year would make a great difference."

Libby called for more funding for ODSA special services, a serious study of pace and pressure at MIT, and more effective response to the Visiting Committee's recommendations.

Other issues included the lack of tenured minority faculty members and the mistreatment of Senior House by the ODSA and MIT at large.

"[I want] Senior House to be given the respect by the rest of the community that I think it deserves," Carolyn R. Richardson '86 said.

D. Reid Weedon Jr. '41, chairman of the committee, said it would be several weeks before the draft report would come out. He added that any MIT student wishing to inform the committee of any additional information should write to Mary Miller, Rm. 7-211.