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Letters to the Editor

We, the undersigned residents of Ashdown House, are writing to protest a plan to charge all students in Institute-approved housing a fee of $100 per year to offset the losses caused by four undergraduate dormitory dining halls. It is appalling that such a grossly unfair plan is even being seriously considered. Under this plan, a large number of students living in graduate residences, as well as independent living groups and other undergraduate dormitories, would be forced to stretch their own severely restricted budgets to subsidize other students.

As graduate students who have chosen a community lifestyle, we empathize with undergraduates. Many of us have worked hard to mutually enrich both graduate and undergraduate student lives by attending teaching colloquia to learn how to become better TAs, by interacting with undergraduates in activity, religious, or social groups, or by personally reaching out and offering support, technical knowledge, and encouragement as students who have "been there."

We wish to correct the current depiction of graduate students as people with extra money to burn. For most of us, attending graduate school is a major financial struggle. In order to make ends meet, a lot of us take extra jobs or loans and deplete savings accounts that may have been built up from working before attending graduate school.

If the plan to subsidize the dormitory dining system is implemented, we believe many students would immediately leave the Institute housing system, forfeiting both the convenience of living on campus and the fairly supportive community we've managed to build. In these recessionary years, the local rental market is already competitive with on-campus prices. We believe the financial loss to the housing system would far outweigh any gain to the dining system.

We are amazed that the dining system is not making tons of money with the high prices already being charged. We support the recent Tech column which suggested that ARA restructure dining schedules and possibly expand central locations to better accommodate student schedules. Perhaps community kitchens would work better in dormitories, by offering students the opportunity to prepare their own food at any convenient time of day for significantly less money.

Kathy Misovec G and 68 others

Fee Imposes Financial Burden

The administration has done it again. Not only have they ignored our opinions on ARA, they seem to have deliberately decided on a course of action exactly opposite of what the majority of MIT undergraduates want and need.

The new food plan penalizes those, like myself, who are trying to save money. If you eat only at Lobdell or any other dining hall, you can easily spend $10 a day on food. If you are lucky enough to live in a dorm with a kitchen, you can eat fairly well on $25 per week. Over the course of the year, cooking for yourself, you can save over $1,000.

Of course, you do have to spend time preparing the food, but for me and many others that I know, we are able to attend this place because our parents scrimped and saved, and for us, we are more than happy to spend a little bit of time so we don't have to go $4,000 more in debt.

Kristi Berry '95

Croatia Suffers Under Yugoslav Rule

We are the Croatian community in the United States. What is the Croatian community? We are the people and the descendants of the people from the state of Croatia, which is located in what used to be Yugoslavia, near Italy and Austria. We, the people of Croatia, have dared to do what the United States did in 1776: demand our freedom, our independence, and an end to foreign occupation.

For that declaration of independence, we have paid a heavy price. Almost half of our country has been destroyed by the Yugoslav Communist Army, which is not only overwhelmingly better equipped than our army, but is probably the most ruthless army in the world.

As the result of our fight for freedom, 13 centuries of our history and culture were destroyed, and tens of thousands of people were killed or are still prisoners of the Yugoslav government. One-fifth of our population is homeless.

What genuinely hurts Americans of Croatian descent is the fact that not only did President Bush not aid us, but that he sided with our aggressors and declared that he had no objections to the Communist government of Yugoslavia using force to keep the country together.

Perhaps this is the first you have heard of our plight. The reasons for this are simple: we have no oil, no nuclear weapons, no minerals, no cash crops, and no exports of importance to the rest of the world. Therefore, as far as big business, the media, and President Bush are concerned, what happens to Croatia is only of interest to other Croatians.

Now that you have been made aware of this most disgraceful situation, I am requesting your assistance to help try and remedy this atrocity.

Please write, phone, fax, or otherwise contact your Senators, Representatives, Cabinet Members, the President, and the State Department and ask them to support the freedom and independence of Croatia and demand that they stop the destruction of an entire nation of people. Please help.

Stjepan Balog

Don't Let Labs Hurt Environment

Earth Day 1992 is coming up on April 25. We are on the staff of the Biology Teaching Lab and know of many enthusiastic participants in Institute paper, pipet-tip-rack and styrofoam-box recycling programs who want to do the right thing for our planet. When it comes to other aspects of lab work, though, some may be unaware of the harmful environmental consequences of bad work habits. In observance of Earth Day, we would like to suggest than those who work in labs at MIT take a few minutes to consider the effects that some everyday lab practices may have on our harbor at the other end of the drains, on our fragile atmosphere into which the fume hoods and incinerator stacks empty, and on our already choking landfills.

As a reminder, some steps we can take to help include reducing the quantities of materials and hazardous chemicals we use, switching to less hazardous alternatives, and disposing of chemical wastes properly. We can replace disposables with good old-fashioned reusables. We can reuse solutions with hazardous ingredients. Only buy the amount of chemical you need, even if it is cheaper to buy in bulk; the disposal costs of excess chemicals are far greater than the amount saved. In molecular biology, there are alternatives to radioactive processes -- we should utilize them.

Organic and toxic wastes, including ethanol, methanol, ethidium bromide, and formamide, to name a few, are collected by the Safety Office, and disposed of by licensed treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. Recently hired collection staff have reduced pickup time considerably; normal amounts of waste chemicals in containers up to one gallon in size are covered by Institute overhead. Empty solvent bottles are very convenient for collecting hazardous waste.

By setting a good example, as we attempt to do in 7.02, we may influence the attitudes and practices of others with whom we work, and create good work habits from the start for new lab personnel.

As scientists, we know that the "stuff" we generate in our labs doesn't disappear once it leaves the laboratory. The good stuff ends up in the journals; the fish in Boston Harbor, our lungs, and our children may be getting the leftovers if we are not careful. Earth is a finite place, a "closed system." What will the final product be like if we are careless about the reagents we pour into that system? We have a great opportunity, as well as a responsibility, to reduce the harm our work may have on our planet, and to keep Earth livable for future generations.

Deborah A. Fonda, Claire L. Sullivan

Center Would Address Women's Concerns

We -- students, staff, and faculty, propose the establishment of a Women's Resource Center at MIT. Many other universities of MIT's caliber, such as Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown, have established women's resource centers. Although there are some resources for women on the MIT campus, they are not centrally coordinated, fully supported, or publicized, nor are they made available to the full MIT community.

An MIT Women's Resource Center will provide a centrally located space on the main campus, accessible to the entire MIT community. It will have a paid director who will be responsible for coordinating events and services for women and those members of the MIT community concerned about gender-related issues. One of the key goals of the center would be to address the unique problems faced by women from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds.

Among the services that the Women's Resource Center could provide are: education for women and men about gender-related issues and concerns; information about career planning, scholarships, and grants for women; programs that provide women with mentoring and networking opportunities; support, counseling, and a crisis hotline for rape/harassment and other gender-related problems; and advocacy for individuals filing sexual-harassment or assault complaints.

Establishment of the MIT Women's Resource Center will require support and funding from the administration. We welcome individuals and organizations to now come forward to share ideas and express support.

Banu Ramachandran '92-

for the The Women's Resource Center Committee-

Condoms Are an Imperfect Defense

This letter is a response to Claire M. Woodman '95's letter regarding the efficacy of condoms and the spermicide nonoxynol-9, in reducing the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus which causes AIDS ["Attitude About Condom Use Must be Realistic," April 10].

My first concern is the discrepancy in our reported failure rates for condoms in preventing pregnancy. Both Woodman and I used the same source, Contraceptive Technology, for our facts regarding condoms. Although the source did give a theoretical 2 percent failure rate among "perfect users," only one study has produced such results.

The average failure rate for all studies reported was 12 percent. The most commonly cited reason for failure was the lack of use of a condom. Realizing that people don't always act in a rational way during a sexual encounter, it is unlikely that most will use a condom every time. It is therefore irresponsible to advise condom use knowing that many will probably not use one. Even for people who knew their partners were HIV-infected, there was a 17 percent failure rate for using condoms.

Confusion has also arisen over the efficacy of the spermicidal agent nonoxynol-9 in reducing HIV transmission through sexual contact. Woodman claimed that the spermicide has been proven effective in killing the AIDS virus. True enough. Nonoxynol-9 has been shown to be effective in inactivating HIV under laboratory conditions. However, recent concern over the tendency of nonoxynol-9 to cause ulcerations in vaginal and rectal tissue has caused public health officials to re-evaluate what role the spermicide should play in their comprehensive "safer sex" guidelines.

According to the 1988 edition of Your Guide to Safer Sex and the Condom, published by the Family Planning Association and the Health Education Authority of the United Kingdom, "spermicides ... may give extra protection." However, the 1991 edition of the same guide did not mention possible protective effects of the spermicide, but rather advised against its use.

Robert Terwilliger '92-