The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 68.0°F | A Few Clouds

Baker acts on criticism

Baker acts on criticisms

[cp8.77][cp8.77][cp8.77]

[cl9.5][cl9.5][cl9.5]

Responding to recent accusations of sexism and racism, the residents of Baker House decided at a meeting on Sunday to eliminate its traditional "Sex God" and "Sex Goddess" competitions, and to revise its attitudes towards suspected intruders, commonly referred to as "urchins."

According to Baker's vice president for Institute relations, Katherine J. Downes '91, the residents of the house reached a consensus that the contests in their present form had to be eliminated.

The Sex God contest has been held in the fall, and the Sex Goddess contest in the spring. In the recent contests, residents have paraded on stage performing what many students have claimed to be demeaning and sexist acts, especially for women in the Sex Goddess competition.

The recent controversy arose when members of Alpha Tau Omega wrote a letter to The Tech two weeks ago criticizing the sexist nature of the contest.

Downes said that the Sex Goddess contest had originated about eight years ago as a parody on "society's values," but noted that in recent years it has degenerated into a more exploitative event.

The residents agreed to start a program aimed at creating a policy on sexual harassment and educating residents on sexism and sexual harassment.

In response to a critical column which ran at the same time as the ATO letter, Baker residents passed a resolution calling for a reassessment of racial attitudes created by the house's "Urchin Alert."

The Urchin Alert, renamed the House Alert, is a bell code which brings students together to collectively confront suspected intruders in the dormitory. "The idea is that there is power in numbers," Downes said.

The resolution calls for the rewriting of the intruder policy section of the Baker Confidential, a casually-written handbook for residents, which currently advocates violence against intruders.

The formal policy, Downes claimed, has always been non-violent, but "there are a number of minority students who don't feel comfortable in Baker, and we want to change that."

The resolution also mandates increased education on racial discrimination and increased sensitivity to minorities during Residence/Orientation Week.

The idea behind the resolution is that "we cannot control behavior, but we can control attitudes," Downes said.