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Boston Weather: 37.0°F | A Few Clouds

MIT Must Act to Prevent Student Odor

By Thomas R. Karlo
Contributing Editor

Last week's damp, still weather and the concurrent shift of lectures into high gear brought back a perennial problem at MIT - that unique pungent odor that can pervade halls in which far too few of those present have recently engaged in the joys of running water.

With one of my lectures the other day smelling more like a Bombay fish market at high noon than a New England classroom, I gave up on following the lecture and attempted to devise a solution to this most uncivilized situation. Considering we've just started the term and haven't yet hit those odor-inducing all-night problem set or lab nights, the current situation indicates a need for drastic action.

Yes, the cooling of the weather will provide some relief, but as students begin to put on more and more layers of clothing (and keep them on), the situation will only grow more critical. Urgent action is needed, and I have a few proposals of my own to put on the table.

As a stop-gap measure to prevent the unnecessary loss of life, I recommend the purchase of canaries for placement in high-risk classrooms. Many of these canaries are out of work since the decline of the coal industry and will work cheaply. In the event the canaries in a room succumb to the fumes during a lecture, the fire sprinklers will be turned on for the remainder of the lecture, and students will be instructed by the lecturer to use washclothes and soap previously attached to the bottom of each chair for such a contingency. Currently, the only factor holding back such a plan is the objections of the ASPCA on behalf of the canaries. Negotiations are in progress.

Another possible point of attack might be the entry foyers of dormitories. By fitting the outer door with an electric lock similar to the inner one and adding a couple of water nozzles and some hot air jets in the room, anyone leaving the dormitory in an unshowered state could be held in the exit and sprayed down.

This would also make for a great show for those not headed out. Grab a cup of coffee, head down to the front desk, and watch people get run through the human equivalent of a brushless car wash.

A friend of mine pointed out that often the worst culprits in shower avoidance don't actually go home, so catching them at their dormitories is difficult, if not impossible. I'm forced to agree, despite my investment in the prototype. By the way, if you haven't showered lately, I'd avoid using the front entrance at MacGregor House. We're still working out the bugs.

Perhaps the Medical Center can launch a student education campaign. In addition to their current stock of skits on sex and alcohol, the Medlink players could visit dorms to perform such greats as "Did Something Die in Your Backpack, or Did You Just Have Two Problem Sets Due?" and "I Know It Saves on Quarters, But You've Got to Wash That Shirt Eventually." Surely this issue ranks as important as their current topics - if students don't get their odor under control, sex and social drinking become fairly moot.

Another program Medlinks could run might be a promotion of mutual support by close friends. The motto "Friends don't let friends stink"comes to mind. If anyone wants to use that, go ahead. I think the drunk driving people might sue, however, so you didn't hear that one from me.

In the end, only through personal vigilance can we end this threat to the student body. While fear and paranoia are not a solution, awareness is the first step in addressing the problem. The next involves plenty of running water and soap.