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Administration Should Publicize Case for a Dry Rush

Column by Anders Hove
Executive Editor

Things look pretty bad on this side of campus. I'm looking out the window of the Student Center, imagining the fraternities across the river. According to Interfraternity Council President Jason D. Pride '97, fraternity life at MIT is "based on alcohol." That doesn't sit well with the view out the window.

Visions appear before my eyes: Entire houses swamped in home-brew; brothers float by, gargling foam; kegs bob in the frothy mist. Is this really the image of life the IFC wishes to paint for the MIT administration? Can it really be that bad? Or was it something I drank? I may be cynical, but it just can't be that bad.

I expected the actual statement to come out more like this: Fraternity life isn't based on alcohol any more than computer science is based on grease. The one may be frequently associated with the other, but the connection is not organic.

At least that's what the administration would like to think. Last semester, the office of Residence and Campus Activities privately announced its intention to nudge IFC toward a dry Residence and Orientation Week. Seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, dormitory R/O events are dry, why not fraternity events as well?

RCA's big plan had only one big hitch: IFC. Fraternities were bound to oppose any plan for a dry rush for several reasons. First, many alumni show up for rush events, and who wants to tell them they can't enjoy a beer while talking to a prospective pledge? They might feel unwelcome, and decide not to show up next time around. Second, while dormitory residents can hold parties that have nothing to do with rush (and have alcohol there), nearly everything that happens in a fraternity during R/O is a rush event. Third, if life in a given fraternity is "based on alcohol," then having that fraternity go dry for a week may give incoming students the wrong impression.

The final hitch involves self-governance: What if RCA decided to ram a dry rush down IFC's throat. That would violate the notion that the exercise of self-government is critical to MIT's educational mission. RCA understands this, and seems willing to essentially allow the IFC leadership to take charge of the process. Allowing the IFC to manage its own affairs would seem the best way of coming up with a plan that the students can work with. Yet an IFC-designed plan might not even include a dry rush.

Given the fact that their constituents probably opposed a dry rush, the IFC has acted responsibly in exploring a wider variety of rush options and calling an all-out dry rush "idealistic." Maybe the administration thinks it can actually get a workable proposal from the IFC.

But let's be realistic. We've got the president here telling us life is "based on alcohol." The situation with fraternity life seems to be so dire that the IFC could never comply with the paternal wishes of their colleagues in RCA. In that case, maybe the administration will conclude that the problem (as they see it) transcends the ability of students to handle it. What then? Let the IFC settle on the status quo in the name of self-governance? Probably the administration will end up steamrolling the whole operation by unilaterally announcing a new policy.

What bothers me about the whole situation is that the administration hasn't stated publicly how far it needs to go. "We're moving towards a dry rush," is a generalization with no real substance. If push comes to shove, how much self-government is RCA willing to allow on this issue? How much can they really give?

Furthermore, the entire issue is a matter for public debate. If IFC gets to state how it feels about a dry rush, why not the administration? It seems duplicitous for the administration to set a process in motion without at least revealing its interests. Is the issue fairness? Sororities and dormitories have dry rush, so maybe fraternities should too. Is the issue safety? Maybe drinking at rush events poses a risk to incoming students. Or is the issue underage drinking? Perhaps the answers to these questions are so compelling that MIT would be irresponsible in not enforcing a dry rush.

The administration ought to reveal its concerns, if only to inform the discussion. Otherwise the results of the discussion could be mooted by administrative action. If IFC's publicly-declared interest is to preserve alcohol-based life, whatever that is, maybe the administration would be right in forcing radical change above and beyond modifying R/O.

So the moral of the story is that the administration should tell us more. I for one suspect that the need for a dry rush may well outweigh the need for need for self-governance. One thing is certain: If there is a conflict between the goals of RCA and the goals of the IFC, we can all look forward to an amusing train of "alcohol-based" invective generated by our friends across the river. In that case, pour me another glass of Riesling and let the games begin.