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Keeping the Open Door Policy

Katie Jeffreys

I fear life at MIT as it will become. The reasons I chose to come to MIT in 1997 will not hold true for those making the same decision in 2001.

MIT was not my first choice. I loved Rice University in Houston for its beautiful suburban campus, strength in both engineering and liberal arts, and warm climate. Then I came to visit MIT, and I found that the qualities that I had found appealing in Rice did not describe MIT. However, after my visit here, I knew that I would gladly trade all that Rice had to offer for the one thing that made MIT bearable: its attitude outside of academics.

I stayed at Baker House during my visit to MIT, living in a freshmen quad. During my stay I was exposed to MIT social life thanks to the fraternity parties held throughout the weekend. I also found out something that influenced my decision to come to MIT, and to choose to live in Baker. It was the "open door policy."

When I had talked to an admissions liasion from Rice, she emphasized that their policy on drinking and other illicit activities was a "closed door" one. This meant whatever you did behind closed doors was your business. This struck me as odd. Was there a problem that needed to be kept locked away? And more importantly, I wondered, wouldn't it be more harmful to keep such potentially dangerous activities away from the eyes of peers and floor tutors who would help if needed? This is why Baker's open door policy was so appealing.

I knew from my brief experience at MIT that alcohol was readily available. It was reassuring to know that whatever decisions I made concerning my own consumption of alcohol, there would be someone there to support me in it. I did not come to MIT or move to Baker for the sole reason of their alcohol policies (or lack thereof) at the time. However, the attitude they represented was a significant influence.

Now it seems that everyone is afraid of what toes they will step on, myself included, as I write this column. I miss the carefree life I saw during my prefrosh weekend and the start of my freshman year that so clearly broke the monotony of problem sets, papers, and lab reports. That energy returned on Oct. 2, as students from across campus and across the river gathered in Baker to dance, mingle, and, yes, perhaps consume alcohol. I wish I could say that nobody was there for the sole purpose of drinking free liquor.

However, it is important to emphasize that the gathering was a campus-wide event, temporarily raising the morale of an increasingly over-stressed and depressed campus. I saw people, many of whom were not consuming alcohol, who live in dorms ranging from East Campus to Next House, as well as members of many fraternities and sororities. It was a controlled event not at all exclusive, and entirely entertaining. That is until we heard that the "party" was over.

I can not comment on the state of the Simmons College student before, during or after coming to Baker. I can say, however, that if I were in her position, I would be grateful that I was in a place where I would receive help and not be put behind a "closed door" to fend for myself. The irony of the situation at Baker should indicate to President Charles M. Vest that no matter where people are housed, if they want to drink, they will. I would simply hope people aren't driven to adopt the attitude that deterred me from Rice. And in the future, I hope that students do not choose other schools over MIT in the same way.