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Freedoms, Alcohol Discussed At First Dean's Open Meeting

Rebecca Loh -- The Tech
Senior Associate Dean Robert M. Randolph comments on alcohol policy at the Tuesday night open meeting in La Sala de Puerto Rico.

By Dan McGuire
Executive Editor

Administrators and students gathered in La Sala de Puerto Rico Tuesday evening to attend the first open meeting on alcohol, sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education.

"Anything done to address this cannot turn this campus into a police state," said Rosalind H. Williams, dean for undergraduate education.

"There have been large meetings with parents during family weekend. This is kind of the same spirit," she said.

Two groups were announced during the meeting: a small working group which would recommend options for next year's Residence and Orientation Week, and a larger group responsible for developing long-term options. The larger group will be formed later.

The small working group is the current focus and will be formed in the next week. "We have to have [Interfraternity Council] and [Dormitory Council] representation" on the working group, Williams said. "That's really necessary."

One of the main goals is to keep the group small - around six to eight members, Williams said after the meeting. "It has to be a very small working group because it has a very tight agenda" and fairly short time frame to work within, she said. Nevertheless, "there is no indication that we have a crisis situation on our hands," Williams said.

The group will present an update on its progress at the faculty meeting on Nov. 19. Some time after that, the group will present a range of options to Williams, President Charles M. Vest, Provost Joel Moses '67, and Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56, who will make the final decision.

"Are there any things that you can categorically rule out?" asked a member of the audience.

When asked if there were any plans that could be ruled out, Williams responded "there are a lot of radical proposals going around [however] when people look at MIT they see a very fine institution. The plan is to keep the current system and augment it," she said. All possible options will be considered, she said.

Williams emphasized that the small committee's decisions would be targeted only on the fall semester.

Faculty motion stirs fears

The Sense of the Faculty motion brought forward during the Oct. 15 meeting was the subject of intense debate. The motion, which will be voted on at the next faculty meeting, urges the Institute to house all freshmen on campus. "A Sense of the Faculty resolution is just that - it's not binding," Williams said.

"If the faculty passes a motion at this time it would be an insulting gesture to the idea that students would have a voice," said Jeremy D. Sher '99.

"It takes two faculty members to get a motion on the table," said Williams. "The conversation [between students, faculty, and the administration] cannot be made by rules, it has to be made by consensus," she said.

"The faculty motion is part of the conversation," said Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Robert M. Randolph. "What does the student body" want to say in response, he asked.

Williams said that current proposals would not interfere with previous commitments. "The pledge to build new housing is on top of existing pledges," Williams said.

"What's come out of the last faculty meeting," is a sense that support for other renovation projects, such as those slated for Baker House "have been diminished," said Ashesh P. Shah '98.

The relative conservatism and fear of change among the student body was also discussed. "In many respects the MIT student community is perceived as more conservative than the extended MIT community," Randolph said. "How we carry on this conversation will be very revealing," Williams said.

"I think that the student body has learned to fear change. Normally we don't hear about it until it's further along than we'd like," said Jeremy H. Brown G after the meeting. The conservatism "is not a preference for the status quo (but) rather a preference for slowing things down to the point where we can get our voice in," he said.

Student freedom debated

"MIT will let me go into a lab and mess with radioactive crap or biohazard level 5 stuff," said Christopher H. Barron '98. "How can you assume that [a student] is incompetent" when it comes to issues like housing and alcohol, he said.

"How can you keep the [freedom that MIT students enjoy] while having a campus where Scott Krueger wouldn't have died?" Williams asked. "Maybe it was a freak accident, but it's a question that we have to raise," she said.

"In every other part of life we deal with ignorance with education," Barron said. "I don't think its best for students to put them in a high chair."

Williams said that she was pleased with the way the meeting turned out. "There were strong and consistent messages," she said, and the "tone [of the discussion] was generally quite constructive."

The plan is to invite faculty members such as the housemasters to the next forum. "It's very important for the faculty to be here," Williams said.

There is an official MIT alcohol discussion site on the web at <\>