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UA Approves Substance-Free Housing Resolution

By Kevin R. Lang

At the final Undergraduate Association Council meeting of the fall term Monday night, the UA narrowly passed a resolution recommending that dormitories and living groups consider allowing students to decide if they want substance-free housing.

The original resolution, submitted by Interfraternity Council Public Relations Chair Christopher R. Rezek '99, had been tabled at an earlier meeting.

"There was overwhelming opposition to the idea of making the new dorm substance-free," said UA Floor Leader Ryan K. Pierce '99. Once the motion was tabled, Rezek removed the resolution for revision by several UA committee chairs, himself, and a number of fraternity presidents.

After a great deal of discussion at Monday's meeting, Pierce broke a 99 tie by voting in favor of the resolution. Pierce said that he supported the resolution because it promotes choice. "I don't feel like people should be put in substance-free housing against their will."

Many oppose resolution

A number of students had concerns regarding the effectiveness and impact of the resolution. Edward A. Gordon '99 thought that such a resolution would not affect large events with alcohol. He added that setting aside substance-free housing promotes alcohol consumption elsewhere. "Three-quarters of those people in dorms should not be using substances anyway," Gordon said.

UA Vice President Jennifer A. Kelly '00 opposed the resolution because MITregulations prohibit students from drinking in common areas without registering the event. She thought that students already decide alcohol's role in their residence life.

Class of 2001 President Pamela Mukerji '01 recommended that the resolution be passed on to the Dormitory Council.

Rezek said that he was "surprised that the debate centered around the appropriateness of making a resolution that affects the entire student body."

Those in favor of the proposal praised the extent of student choice included in the resolution. UA Student Committee on Educational Policy Chair Jeremy D. Sher '99 thought that students could decide their living group's substance-free status on a yearly basis, so that each year, new residents would have input into the decision. "We're not looking at having an entire dorm do this," Sher said.

Finboard issues also discussed

The meeting's other major issue regarded potential changes to the UA Finance Board. Sher and UA Committee on Housing andOrientation Co-Chair Matthew L. McGann '00 want Finboard to change several of its practices that have been limited by funding in the past.

With Finboard's current allocation of $194,000 per calendar year, Sher and McGann want Finboard to fund food at events and meetings, since "food attracts people to student-activity meetings, thereby strengthening activities," according to the proposal. In addition, they propose that the UA should recognize that many groups depend on Finboard for all funding, and that self-sufficiency is often not practical. Another proposal calls for UA funding of class councils.

Perhaps the most significant proposed change regards reimbursements for student group funding. Currently, groups pay for expenses out-of-pocket, and later apply for reimbursement from the UA. Sher and McGann want the UA to directly fund events, thus allowing groups to schedule events they could not otherwise afford.

However, a number of concerns were raised regarding these proposals. Gordon noted that Finboard receives requests for expenses that groups know are not covered, and that without the current reimbursement process student groups might take advantage of UA funding.

UA Treasurer Edgar H. Martinez '00 noted that Finboard can't fund even half of the requests groups make, despite the increase in funding to almost $200,000 this year.

A number of UA committees gave their final reports at Monday's meeting. The SCEP reported that it is currently concentrating on advising and a possible undergraduate majors guide. In addition, SCEPis considering a response to the report by the Presidential Task Force on Student Life and Learning. The committee is also looking for a new chair to replace Sher in the fall of 1999.

Leah S. Schmelzer '02, chair of the UA Committee on Student Life, discussed plans for confidential medical transport. However, the committee's original proposal contained legal difficulties which must be dealt with before the UA can vote on a proposal.

Attendance at the meeting was relatively low, with many dorms and several classes unrepresented. Also not in attendance was UA President Paul T. Oppold '99.