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Party Policy Misses Point, Hurts Morale

Guest Column by Douglas K. Wyatt

I am writing to complain about the current implementation of the new campus party policy. I understand the reasons for the change in policy regarding large parties on campus, but after seeing firsthand what this policy has done to certain aspects of the social life, it seems painfully clear to me that the effects of this change are not solving the real problem that was articulated earlier this term. In addition, it is reducing an already low campus morale for a significant portion of the students here.

I have attended two events that were seriously affected by the new policy since its implementation. The first was DTYD, a party held in the Burton-Conner House Dining Hall, and the second was Steer Roast, this past weekend at Senior House. I have attended both in past years, and the restrictions on both this year had a serious impact on the events. The major impact has been the strict enforcement on the number of wristbands available at the events. The number of people allowed into these events was significantly curtailed by a limited number of wristbands available, not only for those planning to drink, but anyone desiring to enter the event at all.

I have been to four DTYD's since I've been here, and there has never been a "capacity problem" with there being too many people. In this recent one, though, the entrance was cut off when there was a significant amount of open space left in the dining hall. Steer Roast was a similar situation this past weekend. This seemed even more overly restrictive since it was an outdoor event and there is ample entrance and exit capacity from the area in which it was taking place. In addition, since they had limited supplies of "legal age" wristbands, a number of my friends that were of age were unable to get drinks since the only wristbands left were of the "under 21" type.

I will admit that MIT has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its students and their guests at social functions such as these. However, it was clear to me (and I suspect most others) that neither of these events were even approaching "fire hazard" levels of attendance. I've seen classes at MIT with more people per square foot than these, many having fewer exits that these venues.

Finally, what strikes me the most about the current situation is that none of this addresses the original problem. The new policy was primarily intended, at least officially, to reduce the probability that we will suffer another violent incident such as the one at Walker Memorial several months ago. At the meeting that I attended with representatives from the office of Residence and Campus Activities, the Campus Activities Complex, and Campus Police, the justification for the party moratorium and ensuing guidelines was a list of about five or six violent incidents, ranging from shootings to stabbings, over the past 10 or so years. It was clear from the discussions taking place that the major concern was the "random outsider" problem. The administration seemed to think that if we could reduce the number of non-MIT students attending these events, especially those with no connection to the local college community, than we would reduce our risks significantly.

Yet the vast majority of people at both of these events, and most dormitory parties, consists of MIT students. Parties thrown by student activities and fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups usually draw most of their crowds from the MIT community and students from other colleges in the area. It doesn't seem to me that limiting the number of people allowed in an event, especially as was done at the events I have seen, is doing anything to reduce the probability of an off campus person attacking anyone at an event.

Some things that may improve the safety situation would be possibly limiting the number or arrival times of non-MIT or non-college students, more strict adherence to event advertising restrictions or more comprehensive patrolling by Campus Police. The current policy seems to me to be just another way that MIT, either intentionally or not, stifles the social life on campus. If this term was a trial period for this new policy, as we were originally told, I would heartily recommend that it be re-evaluated and changed to include measures which actually protect the safety of the guests at these events without restrictions that unduly hinder our ability to socialize for no real benefit.