Issues in Column Should Not Go IgnoredColumn by Erik S. Balsley
For the past two weeks, the opinion pages of The Tech have been full of responses to the column by Stacey E. Blau '98 ["Hypocritical Fraternities Embarrass MIT," Feb. 25]. The number of responses has been levelling off, which is to be expected as people get more involved in the term.
This is to be expected and may not be such a bad thing. However, what about the issues raised in both the column and the plethora of responses to it? Although many people, including me, may have questioned the writing of the column, it has managed to shed light upon several issues that most undergraduates recognize but rarely acknowledge.
I know dormitory residents and fraternity members. I have been to parties at both. I have gotten drunk at both. I have chosen not to drink at both. I realize several generalizations made in the column were too broad and could be applied to any living group. But characterizing campus life in that way raised several major issues.
Alcohol misuse, friendship, brotherhood, and the separation of the campus were all issues that were raised by the column and its responses. So the piece and its responses have started debate about these issues. For the past several weeks, the issues seem to have been one of the most talked about things on campus. Now as things begin to settle down, debate about these issues needs to move off of these pages and into other forums. As students, we should not allow these issues to creep into the background once again.
Several of these issues will most likely be looked at by the Institute as it takes a closer look at its educational purpose. If students do not address these issues and help develop solutions to them, the administration will most likely develop a solution for us.
What forums are most appropriate for further discussion of the issues? As I think about it, I am drawn toward something that received some of Blau's attacks, Leadershape.
As a participant in Leadershape '95 (for the Undergraduate Association), I do have some concerns about the program, but overall Ifound it to be a worthwhile experience. While many of the classes and workshops left me not overly impressed, I was amazed at the diversity of those around me.
Sixty people from all campus organizations from dorms, fraternities, the UA, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Association, the Dormitory Council, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Black Students Union, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers were stuck on a small island in the middle of BostonHarbor for a week. There was no escape. It could have been a disaster, but it turned out to be truly rewarding.
Instead of hiding from groups that people had problems with or didn't understand, everyone had to see everyone else almost every minute we were on the island. As a result several barriers came crashing down.
Participants began to realize that people and groups that they had severe differences with were not completely evil.Several meetings took place, and some issues began to be addressed on the island. However, we soon returned to MIT and our separate organizations. A good deal of what occurred at Leadershape was sidetracked as people returned to their normal lives.
The issues that were raised by Blau's column affect the whole campus and need the communication between groups that was begun at Leadershape to be continued. If this campus is ever to overcome the problems that affect it, we students need to work with each other to improve it. This is what Leadershape taught me.
The time has come for those who participated in Leadershape to stop referring to themselves in e-mails as "leaders" and prove it. If students are to make a lasting contribution to MIT, that contribution must come from all of us - Leadershape is just a start. We should all work together to address the issues raised by Blau, since they are not going away any time soon.