Party Security Must Be Worked Out
The recent confirmation into policy of last spring's pilot plan governing all large, late-night parties comes after a consensus among administrators in charge of the policy that the pilot plan had proved successful in the scant two months it was in effect last spring. It is unclear what prompted the hasty solidification of the temporary plan. Nonetheless, administrators in charge of the new policy must see to it that student groups are equally approving before the policy is set in stone.
The permanent policy stipulates that proposals for large parties will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and that Walker Memorial is off limits as a spot for large parties - reasonable requirements, and reasonably justified. Clearly, after the shooting last December of a Northeastern University student at Walker, there was no question that MIT needed to look closely at the security of large events. MIT has experienced a number of violent incidents in the past few years, including a 1989 shooting in the Kresge Auditorium parking lot and two stabbings in 1991 at the Student Center. MIT can not tolerate a problem with safety when the consequences could be - and indeed have been - deadly.
The goal should be to put guidelines in place to keep partygoers safe while still allowing them to carry out and have fun at an event. The guidelines in the recent policy certainly seem aimed at safety, including ones that separate the sale of tickets from the point of entry to events, close admission to events an hour before the event ends, and require party advertisements to mention metal detectors if they will be present (the policy also specifies requirements for metal detectors). There is also a proposal to have an RCA staff member present at events, and an idea of requiring event organizers to make a post-evaluation of their events.
While all of these guidelines may indeed shore up safety, it remains to be seen if they may also mire events in rules and restrictions, making them difficult for organizers and cumbersome for the people who attend them. Students have not been consulted as extensively as was warranted by the impact of the policy, which was in effect for only the last two months of last term. MIT should pride itself on the freedom that it has often allowed its students in organizing and managing their own activities. Administrators must look to students for more meaningful input if students are expected to be happy working with these rules.
The criteria for parties must also be applied equally to events as they are considered on an individual basis. Already a series of events for the Sloan School of Management has been granted an exception to hold its events in Walker because the events are of a "cultural" nature and do not quite qualify as parties. There would seem to be no reason that Alpha Phi Alpha's annual step party is not equally deserving of the "cultural" event label and therefore exemptible from the rule - except that the event was the site of last year's shooting and is probably an unlikely candidate for an exemption.
Clearly many of the details of the policy and the ways in which they will be applied to events need to be straightened out. Most essential is the need to work with students to create a policy that will be effective and beneficial for all parties involved.