The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 54.0°F | Partly Cloudy

Institute makes Senior House Tutor scapegoat for drug distribution

I am an acquaintance of Andrew W. Howitt G. I am writing this letter to add a number of facts to the article about him in The Tech ["Sr. House tutor convicted," Feb. 1]. The article reported conviction of Howitt for drug-related charges. These charges, I understand, were instigated by the Institute.

Two incidences damning Howitt's character were printed, and no attempt was made to uncover the background or relevant facts of either of these incidences.

The first incident reported formed the basis of the administration's charges that Howitt had distributed drugs to other students. As I heard the story from Howitt the morning after, he went to a party and spent the evening nursing some very seriously suffering person through a "bad trip." This involved keeping the person quiet and out of harm's way for several hours.

The police came eventually, and asked the person where he had gotten the drugs he took, and the person, still on the bad trip, gestured toward Howitt. The person later denied he had gotten the drugs from Howitt, and didn't remember suggesting that he had.

Because of the involvement of the police, and because Howitt was so concerned about his role as a graduate tutor, he had himself independently tested for drugs immediately after the incident. His test was negative.

To summarize, the Institute has no evidence, except the testimony of a subject in the throes of a drug-related psychotic episode, that Howitt had anything to do with distribution of drugs.

The other incident described Howitt's "involvement" in the tragic death of a Senior House student. I spoke to Howitt only a day or so after the event. My first question to him was, "Did you know the kid?" His answer was, "Fortunately, no." The student did not live in Howitt's entry.

I absolutely cannot see how the Institute can associate Howitt with any drug-distributing incidents in Senior House without direct evidence. To associate him with a suicide sounds very much to me like they needed a scapegoat, and conveniently found one by dredging up this incident "associating" Howitt with distributing drugs.

This disgusts me. Howitt was doing exactly what the best of tutors should be doing: helping people, in a personal way, when they need it, even at great personal inconvenience.

It seems the Institute would have us address the drug users among their own students as evil lepers, and if one is writhing on the floor of your party in pain, no attempt to help them should be made; instead, all present should be questioned to see if someone can be jailed as a "resolution" to the problem.

Further evidence that Howitt has become a scapegoat through

Institute machinations is some rather strange timing. The suicide happened months after the bad trip incident, and the investigation about the suicide apparently occurred months after the suicide.

It was not after the incident with the bad trip, or just after the suicide that Howitt was suspended as tutor. It was several months after both incidents! Only bureaucracies move that slowly, and usually after they've been backed into a corner and realize they have to "act."

If there were any substantial criminal charges the police had to act on, isn't it rather peculiar that they did not act in any way until months after a later suicide?

Your article ended with a sinister note that Howitt "could not be reached for comment last night" and that "[he] is not registered for classes."

Well, the would-be hardened drug pusher and dropout from society is in fact away this weekend mixing sound at a science fiction convention, is employed in Kendall Square working on speech recognition, and is not registered for classes, I learned from housemates and acquaintances.

Among all my acquaintances and friends, Howitt has the most genuine concern for other people of anyone I know. I was always taken aback at how personal an interest he took in all of the students in his entry, how he knew which ones were stressed out over an upcoming test, which ones had recently ended relationships, etc. The Institute is crucifying one of its very best tutors.

Will Howitt be judged respon-

sible for the suicide of a student from the evidence of an alleged drug-related incident months before the suicide occurred? From the inquiries I have made, there is no evidence whatsoever that Howitt even knew the victim, that he distributed anything in Senior House, or that he was connected in any way with the incident.

[el1l]

Bruce Grossan G->