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Students Miffed About Lack Of Consistency in Party Policy

By Jean K. Lee
Staff Reporter

Since the institution last winter of the party policy restricting the types of events that can be held at Walker Memorial, a number of student groups have complained that the plan was not sufficiently discussed with students and is now being applied inconsistently.

After the shooting of a Northeastern University student outside Walker at a party last December, stop-gap restrictions on large, late-night events were made by the Office of Residence and Campus Activities in conjunction with the Campus Police and the Campus Activities Complex.

Last month, that policy - which bans events at Walker and requires all large, late-night events to be examined on a case-by-case basis - was made permanent, further irritating some students.

"I think the new proposal is a bit extreme," said Douglas K. Wyatt G, president of the Association of Student Activities. "Walker is a great place for large events."

Wyatt said that he was the only student who had any knowledge that the decision was being made to make the policy permanent. "I don't think students were sufficiently consulted," Wyatt said.

Several events canceled

A number of different student groups have had their events canceled over the past year because of the restrictions on Walker.

The Honey Pot Jam, an annual women's dance sponsored by Gays, Lesbians, Transgenders, and Friends at MIT for lesbian and bisexual women was canceled a few weeks after the shooting last year.

"We had reservations for Walker Memorial to hold this dance a year in advance," said Joaquin S. Terrones '97, general coordinator of GAMIT.

"We were notified of the cancellation just two weeks before the event, which gave us no alternative avenue - we had to retract our advertisement."

Although GAMIT was reimbursed for the advertisements, the cancelation still caused many problems and many people were unaware of the cancelation because of the short notice.

Other groups including Kappa Alpha Psi, a traditionally black fraternity, and the Black Students Union have experienced party cancelations as well.

But despite the problems caused by the cancelations, Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates said that the plan is a "necessary step to help students feel safe and ensure safety as much as we can without overly restricting the students' social life."

"It's part of taking responsibility for living in an urban campus and our changing world," Bates said.

With the restrictions on Walker, student groups have two other options for locations for large events - La Sala de Puerto Rico or Lobdell Food Court, both in the Student Center.

Certain groups may hold events

Despite the ban on parties at Walker, some events were granted exceptions. For instance, the Greek Week ball - which was held late at night, numbered more than 250 people, and involved alcohol - was held there a few weeks ago.

In addition, various Sloan School of Management events are scheduled to take place in Walker this semester. These "events that are allowed to take place in Walker Memorial are different in nature from the regular metal detector events," said Phillip J. Walsh, director of the Campus Activities Complex.

"It's more than just a party [or] dance... many are special exhibits, films, dance presentations, or cultural events that have presence of faculty, which makes a big difference," he said.

But some students feel that the criteria being applied are too subjective and that groups were not consulted on what might be the right criteria to use.

"I feel that this is institutionalized racism and prejudice," Terrones said. "GAMIT and black students are the only groups that really have regular dances and parties at Walker Memorial, since we're a minority and we need to draw non-MIT members in our events for them to be successful."

"I believe the restrictions involve homophobia and social stereotypes. Other groups such as the Ballroom Dance Club were allowed to hold their events even with non-MIT members," Terrones said.

"Those are things that we have to watch carefully," said Chief of Police Anne P. Glavin. "I certainly wouldn't want to think that the minority or other groups feel pushed aside."

Terrones said that because of the restrictions, GAMIT can not afford to hold more metal detector events since such events require money for the metal detectors themselves and police officer details.

However, Walsh insisted that the plan and the people enforcing it are not overly restrictive.

"We're reasonably flexible," he said. "Any event can take place in Walker Memorial if [groups are] able to justify the event as having stark differences from the regular parties and meet the profile of a non-metal detector event."

Students were not consulted

"I was the only one at all involved in the decision, as far as I know and even I was not consulted prior to the decision," he said. "It was essentially, Come to this meeting and we'll tell you what we've decided to do.'"

Walsh said that while he can understand that students may feel that they were not adequately consulted on the matter, "when it comes to public safety, decisions can't linger [I]t's a value judgment."

Although many students believe that the restrictions are a direct result of the shooting that occurred last December at Walker, "Walker Memorial has always been problematic for security control," Glavin said.

"It's hard to properly cover all the numerous entrances and exits," she said. "It'd almost require a small army of police - it's just not a good facility."