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Ending the Blame Game

Guest Column
Greg Donaldson

I was hit by a deluge of contrasting emotions upon reading the recent letter by John Muir Kumph G [“Stopping the Suicide Problem,” Sep. 21]. But one thing was clear to me: despite all that has happened at MIT in the four years that I have been here, many are still hesitant to place responsibility where many others know that it belongs.

And I was also absolutely shocked at what I saw to be rather large holes in Kumph’s letter. Where to start? Well, my first thought involves this statement: “With a bag over his head, either foul play or suicide is the cause.” This statement reveals naivete on Kumph’s part. Foul play? What could this “foul play” have possibly been? I can almost guarantee that Guy placed the bag on his head himself.

That idea, however, led Kumph to foolishly conclude that the death was a suicide. Although this could be a manner in which to commit suicide, I can’t help but think that if suicide was the desired result, then a different method would have been utilized. Another possibility is that Kumph is using the term “suicide” far too loosely.

Kumph then uses this to lead into a tirade about how it is in fact MIT and the MIT “experience” that is somehow largely responsible. He states that the MIT administration and society “blame drugs.” It has largely been my experience that in many cases MIT is more understanding than many colleges with regard to problems of a personal nature. So not only do I not think that this is the case, I have a much better idea.

Blame the person who knew the risks and ingested the drugs. There are those users who do have this “self-destructive behavior” of which Kumph speaks, but there are many who do not and use drugs anyway. Saying that the use of drugs and alcohol are somehow based in the absence of self-esteem does not give the user enough credit or bestow on the user enough responsibility. It is like blaming a murderer’s awful childhood. I believe that “nurture” is a major contributor. But there are those with worse self esteem who do use drugs. There are those with greater self esteem who use drugs more often and even more recklessly. So clearly this is not the whole story.

To say that Susan Mosher ’99 and Rene Ruiz ’99 are “implicated” in Guy’s death is quite a stretch. The layman who is reading the paper casually makes a connection between the two events. It seems to me that the two were not charged because of Guy’s death. They were charged because a slew of illegal substances was found in their possession. These substances were found when the room was searched, the room in which Guy died. Was a search of that room unreasonable? Of course not. The police were not trying to find a “scapegoat” for Guy’s death, they were merely doing what they should have been doing. This is not “two-faced double talk.” Drugs were found. Charges were laid. Hardly a big conspiracy to make someone responsible.

I do not think that Ruiz and Mosher are responsible for Guy’s death, but they are responsible for drugs found in their possession. Whether or not the two are “victims” in this case depends on whether or not one thinks that the current drug laws are fair. I believe that the current ones are rather unfair, and that the sentences are also rather steep. But despite this, I know the risks involved with possessing illegal substances, as did Ruiz and Mosher. They took these risks. Perhaps it is a shame and a tragedy that they were “caught.” It is certainly a tragedy that their lives will be “ruined” by these charges, but once again, they did know the risks.

In the future, let’s hold people accountable for their actions. Blaming the “atmosphere” at MIT is too easy. It is just putting the scapegoat hat on someone else’s head. The death of Guy is certainly a tragic occurrence, and I apologize to any of his friends who may be hurt by my statements; that is absolutely not my intent. I also apologize to Ruiz and Mosher; despite how this letter may seem, I am wishing for the best for you.

Like Kumph, I too will close with a cliche: “If you play with fire, you get burned.” And I’ve decided that I really don’t like cliches.

Greg Donaldson is a member of the Class of 2000.