UA rejects Pro-Life referendum
By Reuven M. Lerner
The Undergraduate Association Council narrowly defeated a proposal last night to hold a non-binding referendum on the subject of medical insurance re-
funds for students who oppose abortion.
The council also discussed the future of the homeless shelter
run by CASPAR (Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcohol Rehabilitation), which is located on land owned by MIT, and student discounts at local stores.
The proposed referendum, which was defeated by a vote of 18-19-3, would have asked undergraduates if students should "be given the option to be reimbursed upon written request for the abortion coverage fees currently included in the medical insur-
ance package offered by MIT
if they are morally opposed to abortion."
At the last council meeting, which was held on Nov. 18, representatives from the Association for Women Students, which opposed a referendum, and from MIT Pro-Life, which supported it, argued their cases before the council. Council members were told at that time that they would be given a chance to debate the issue at last night's meeting.
But there was virtually no debate before last night's vote. Immediately after the resolution was presented to the floor, Glenn R. Berry '92 made a motion to "table indefinitely" debate on the issue. The motion, which required a two-thirds vote to pass, was narrowly defeated.
After quickly inserting the words "non-binding" into the text of the resolution, a council member made a motion to close debate on the subject. This was also defeated by a small margin.
Several council members were worried about the potential cost of such a referendum. UA Vice President Colleen M. Schwingel '92 explained that it would cost between $350 and $400, which could come from the $2100 remaining in the UA discretionary fund.
Former UA President Paul L. Antico '91 declined to give an opinion on the issue, but asked council members if "we are not dealing with a bigger issue than we should be dealing?"
UA Secretary General Stacy E. McGeever '93, who wrote and presented the resolution, said that Linda L. Rounds, executive director of the Medical Department, and Constantine B. Simonides, vice president and secretary of the MIT Corporation, had told her that they would not change the insurance policy unless there was an overwhelming majority in favor of doing so. "The referendum would be only to gather the data," she added.
Representatives of AWS and Pro-Life could not be reached for comment last night.
lease for CASPAR
The council also discussed a homeless shelter run by CASPAR which is located on a half acre of MIT-owned land. MIT has leased the land rent-free to the shelter since 1979, when the shelter opened. Despite the shelter's desire for a long-term lease, which would allow it to build a permanent structure, MIT announced in June that it would not grant a long-term lease to the shelter.
The resolution, which was passed by a vote of 28-3-8, asks MIT to grant a lease to CASPAR for at least 40 years. Some council members were worried that such a long-term lease could lock MIT into an undesirable financial situation, while others argued that only a long-term lease would help the shelter.
Denise A. Purdie '92, a member of the UA Executive Board, announced toward the end of the meeting a new student discount program. The UA contacted "hundreds of local businesses" in the last few months, many of which were interested in offering discounts of up to 25 percent to students with MIT identification cards.
Approximately three dozen businesses are on the list that Purdie released last night, and she expected the number to double by Registration Day of the spring semester.
Also on the council agenda were two bills sponsored by Jeremy P. Kirby '93. One, which asked Project Athena to provide an Institute-wide messaging system in its January software update, was passed by a vote of 27-5-9.
Some students were concerned that the messages would take up space in their user accounts, invade their privacy, or bother them while they tried to work, but most of the council approved of the idea. Kirby said that only "approved authorities," such as the Campus Police, UA, Graduate Student Council, and MIT administration would be allowed to post notices on the system.
Kirby also proposed a bill that asked the UA to sponsor representatives to a conference at which the Department of Defense policy excluding gays and lesbians from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps would be discussed. The measure was approved, by a vote of 27-1-13.