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Women Shown How To Adjust to MIT

By Susan Buchman
staff reporter

To help female freshmen adjust to the stress of MIT, students and staff held a series of informational forums directed at women during Residence and Orientation Week.

Activities like this have existed for many years, but two events were added this year "to present women with options and to expose them to all the resources available to them at MIT," said Loreto P. Ansaldo '00, an organizer of the events.

"While academics are immensely important, being a whole human being is just as important," said Lynn A. Roberson, a staff associate in counseling and support services and a program organizer.

On Monday, those attending the Chocolate Plus event dined on chocolate delights while listening to MIT professors, administrators, and students discuss various aspects of being female at MIT.

Wednesday's session, which was led by a panel of students, presented information from a young woman's perspective. This meeting, called "How to Survive at MIT: A Woman's Guide," allowed freshmen to hear examples of how upperclassmen dealt with problems ranging from culture shock to roommate disagreements.

The Nature's Calling Tour, sponsored by the Association of MIT Alumni and Alumnae and the Women's R/O Committee, took place on Thursday and exposed women to MITwith a tour of the Institute's scarce women's rest rooms.

Health is often overlooked

The health and well-being of women at MIT was given in-depth coverage on Tuesday when freshmen gathered for "The Best Kept Secrets about Women's Health and Fitness at MIT."

The afternoon started off with a welcome from Roberson during which she urged students to remember that "your well-being is most important. "That means intellectually; that means physically; that means emotionally."

Tracy A. Desovich, a health educator for students and a representative of MedLinks, a peer health advocacy service, was the first speaker. To start her presentation, she gave a definition of health: a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Citing an extreme example Desovich asked students, "Are you staying in Athena twenty-four hours a day and never talking to another person?"

She also counseled those in attendance to be fully aware of the changes in their lives now that they are no longer under their parents' roofs, such as the lack of nourishing meals and the absence of the security provided by curfews and rules about dating. "You can be running marathons and still not feel healthy," she concluded.

Following up on Desouch's comments about nourishment was Anna Jasonides, a registered dietician and nutritionist with MITMedical. She announced that she is available for discussions on all dietary concerns, including weight loss or gain, eating disorders, and general good nutrition. "The number one thing a student can do," says Jasonides, "is maintain your weight."

This can be done by watching fat intake and portion sizes and realizing that foods marked low fat or no fat can be high in calories, she said. She listed her five power foods; foods high in essential vitamins and minerals and simultaneously low in fat and calories: brown rice, wheat germ, nonfat yogurt, broccoli, and orange juice.

Staying safe on a college campus

Ritu Gupta '99, a volunteer for MedLinks, spoke to the women about alcohol use and rape on campus. "Not everybody on campus is drinking," she said.

On the topic of rape, she told students to understand that rape is "not always someone jumping out of the bushes. That's the biggest and the most dangerous myth."

Most importantly, women must realize that although awareness in all situations is crucial to protecting oneself, rape is never a woman's fault, Gupta said.

Wrapping up the afternoon was Sergeant Cheryl de Jong Vossmer of the Campus Police. She attempted to soften the image of police officers by saying, "Just because you come to me doesn't mean it's a formal report."

Vossmer warned that one of the most common mistakes a woman will make is not being aware of her surroundings. She then demonstrated the self-defense skills that women learn in the Rape Aggression Defense Course, which is not only a source of PEcredit, but an important prevention tool for college women.