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Several Parties Escape Metal Detector Party Policy

By Efren Gutierrez

staff reporter

Three years after MIT instituted a metal detector policy for large events, groups have found ways of circumventing the policy, in many cases with Institute’s approval.

Two events held at Walker Memorial in the past week, including the Domecoming Ball, were able to avoid the metal detector requirement through questionable estimations of party attendance. Another party, held in La Sala de Puerto Rico, was allowed to continue without metal detectors at Campus Police discretion.

Current party policy as it stands defines a metal-detector event based on party size and three sets of criteria. According to Katherine G. O’Dair, Associate Dean of Student Activities and Special Programs, a party is considered a metal-detector event if attendance exceeds 250 people and it fulfills one of the following three criteria: alcohol being served, live entertainment such as a band or DJ, or attendees from outside the MIT community.

Domecoming escapes party rules

Rita H. Lin ’00, a Domecoming organizer, estimated overall attendance at the dance, held last Saturday in Walker Memorial, at over 250 people, even though the dance continued without metal detectors or police intervention. The party was registered with the Campus Activities Complex, which processes all large event requests, as having 249 people, live music, no alcohol, and no guests from outside MIT.

“It was probably due to the fact that it was an MIT-only event. The Campus Police Chief makes the final decision, and exemptions are more favorable if they are MIT-only. The CAC and Student Activities only make recommendations,” O’Dair said. Campus Police have final approval over all large events, and each event is considered on a case-by-case basis.

In addition, a large party at Walker on Tuesday night sponsored by Microsoft did not have metal detectors. The party was open to the entire MIT community and featured a D.J.

Yet another exception to the party policy was made for Swing Dance Night held in La Sala de Puerto Rico, with had both large attendance and a live band. O’Dair stated the exception was due to the fact that it was for the MIT community only.

O’Dair said that there has been a push to make Walker more available for community events such as Domecoming. Walker, which is not equipped to carry metal detectors, is only used if parties have an attendance under 250. The only two places which have a higher capacity are La Sala de Puerto Rico and Lobdell Food Court.

Current policy criticized at onset

The current metal detector policy, instituted after a Northeastern University student was shot in the leg outside of an Alpha Phi Alpha party at Walker in 1995, was questioned at the time because of its seeming discrimination against minority groups at MIT. Most events, except for those of the Sloan School of Management, that would have been held in Walker were immediately canceled after the 1995 shooting.

The policy brought criticism from minority groups who depend on inviting people from other schools and the greater-Boston area for successful parties. At the time, Joaquin S. Terrones ’97, general coordinator of GAMIT, said, “We had reservations for Walker Memorial to hold this dance a year in advance. We were notified of the cancellation just two weeks before the event, which gave us no alternative avenue -- we had to retract our advertisement.”

Other groups at the time also felt that the campus policy was subjective in implementation.

Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin said at the time, “Exceptions to the policy were granted on a case-by-case basis, for “tamer events that haven’t got the large following. The kind of people attracted is important to the decision. Ballroom dancing is far less dangerous than a rock concert. We want to follow the policy, but we also recognize that we need some flexibility.”

Zareena Hussain contributed to this reporting of this article.