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UA alcohol committee survey provided reliable information

The letter to the editor last week by Lars E. Bader '91 about the results of a recent survey conducted by the Undergraduate Association Standing Committee on Student Life for Alcohol Policy was inaccurate ["Tech alcohol survey article misrepresents key results," Feb. 22].

Bader says, correctly, that he "pointed out the unreliability" of the survey, but he didn't point out that he was promptly discounted. I think the survey is reliable, because we really weren't looking to get a totally refined, precise sense of community perceptions.

Associate Dean for Student Affairs James R. Tewhey and I were wondering, since most dormitories do, after all, spend house tax money on alcohol, whether it was even an issue in the student community.

That 40 percent anywhere would say "no" to their tax funding alcohol is itself important, and is a partial answer to our question. The survey doesn't tell us that 40 percent, consistently, disapprove of their taxes being used, but it does tell us that many dormitories are divided.

However, all the results discussed so far have been about the people who responded that they didn't want their tax used for alcohol. If we look at these people plus those who did not want their tax used for alcohol but who found others' objections valid, we find that over 50 percent in every case (except for Random Hall, from which only 12 surveys were collected) and usually around 80 percent, agreed that objections to using the tax to fund alcohol are reasonable.

Bader goes on to express his opinion about the role of the committee, and he is quite right to do this. The opinions of people on the committee and within the MIT community in general are strong and sometimes controversial and conflicting.

At this point, I can only hope that as long as the discussion at the committee's meetings and within the community continues to be free and full, we will come out with a solution which we can all live with and benefit from.

So, with the low turnout at the forum on house taxes and with the high prominence that our report will likely receive, it is crucial that all of us realize the chance for input that we have.

Also, the letter stated that somehow the Bursar's Office might assume some responsibility for the control of funds available to individual dormitories.

Actually, the only role of the bursar regarding house taxes is to separate the money with which we pay our student accounts into several parts, one of which is the house tax. It then transfers those parts into an internal MIT account, from which a check is ultimately written to each house treasurer.

Up to this point, I have tried to restrict my response more to questions of fact. However, when Bader suggests that representing students and educating them are mutually exclusive and seems to criticize those who see importance in education as being passive, I feel compelled to respond.

I think it is not only a mistake to suggest that one cannot both represent and favor education, but a large mistake to suggest that we should not do both. Representing students is a primary obligation of all the student members of the committee, as it is of the UA Council members who will ultimately vote on the components of our report.

However, a recent, reliable survey by the MIT Medical Department indicates that 55 percent of undergraduates do not know if the Institute offers a drug and alcohol awareness program, that 89 percent are not involved in efforts to prevent drug and alcohol use problems on campus, that 41 percent either do not know whether MIT is concerned about the prevention of drug and alcohol use problems or think that MIT is not concerned, that 25 percent do not know if MIT's current policies are enforced, and that 45 percent think they are not.

In addition, there are as many women who say that they have been sexually harassed because of someone else using alcohol as there are people who think that funneling beer is acceptable behavior -- four out of 10.

People who drink six drinks or more at one sitting are twice as likely to be sexually harassed, nearly all discipline cases are alcohol-related, and nearly all property damage in the dormitories is alcohol-related.

With this in mind, to label education as a second-class concern or even to fail to label it as a prime concern is to say that ignorance is not an obstacle. Knowing how to prevent situations that could -- and often do -- result in crisis is so much more important than percentage points on a survey.

Jeremy Paul Kirby '92->


UA Standing Committee on->

Student Life for Alcohol Policy->