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Tech alcohol survey article misrepresents key results

The Tech's reporting on the recent forum on house taxes and alcohol was inaccurate ["Use of house tax probed," Feb. 19]. To begin with, the article misrepresented the results of the recent Undergraduate Association Alcohol Policy Committee survey, which posed two questions regarding the use of house taxes to purchase alcohol.

The article states that 43 percent of the 305 students who answered the first survey question opposed use of dormitory taxes for alcohol. The correct figure was 41 percent.

More importantly, it also states that "over half of the others who responded disapproved of spending a large proportion of house taxes on alcohol." Not only is this statement false, but the survey did not even pose a question on the subject.

The second of the two questions on the survey merely asked students who approved of the use of dormitory taxes for alcohol in the first question if they considered it "valid" for other students to oppose expenditure of house taxes on alcohol.

The article correctly reports that turnout at the forum was low. But it could have been more precise: Beyond the committee, only three students showed up at Room 10-250. The article suggests that the committee "judged the poll's 15-percent response rate to be good." This is wrong. There are 2801 students in the dormitory system, 305 of whom completed the survey, a response rate of only 11 percent.

At such a response rate, one can safely assume that only those with strong feelings on the subject commented. Beyond the low response rate, the survey was unrepresentative of dormitory residents as a whole, drawing two-thirds of its responses from three dormitories -- Baker, Burton and McCormick -- with about one-third of dormitory residents.

No surveys whatsoever were collected from East Campus, Bexley Hall or Senior House. As a member of the Alcohol Policy Committee, I pointed out the unreliability of the poll during the forum.

Still, it is good that The Tech covered the forum. Students need to know how the new alcohol policy will affect life in the dormitories. If, in my opinion, the committee continues in its current direction it will ban dormitory purchases of alcohol, regardless of the source of funds, the proportion of residents over 21 or the proportion of funds spent on alcohol.

To insure no alcohol is purchased, the Bursar's Office may also be given control over dormitory expenditures, forcing house officers to go through cumbersome procedures to gain approval whenever money is spent.

Questioning the direction of the committee has been difficult. While there are several students on the committee, it is difficult for them to address administration concerns about liability, an issue about which students are not experts.

And some student members have listened passively, viewing their role more as "educating" students than representing them. Those who have opinions about the changes the committee is considering should attend the next alcohol forum in the beginning of March, so the committee can take their views into account.

Lars Bader '91->

UA Alcohol Policy Committee->