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Liability Can’t Kill Roast

Organizers Acquire Necessary Permits

By Frank Dabek


Senior House’s motto is “sport death,” but this year the dormitory’s residents have been more concerned with liability as safety concerns threatened the annual Steer Roast party. With the event a week away, however, it appears that the Steer Roast tradition will continue as administrators have green lighted the infamous party.

W. Gerald Diaz, director of MIT’s safety office, said that his office was satisfied that Steer Roast can be run safely while maintaining the traditional barbeque and as well as the location in the Senior House courtyard. Students “have done a lot of work to make a safe event,” Diaz said.

Nadia T. Madden ’00 and Blake R. Brasher ’01, the event’s primary organizers, met weekly with a group of administrators including Diaz, Dean of Students Margaret R. Bates, Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin, and Jamie Lewis Keith, the Institute’s risk management counsel to resolve issues surrounding the event.

According to Bates, obtaining the proper permits for Steer Roast’s centerpiece, the barbeque, was the major stumbling block. “It looked like we’d hit a brick wall,” Bates said. “The breakthrough on the fire permit was the big issue.”

Madden said that fire department personnel will be at the event for 12 hours while the meat is being cooked. That presence will cost organizers $29 an hour, and they are looking to the UA for support, Madden said.

Captain Lawrence Ferazani of the Cambridge Fire Department confirmed that Senior House had applied for and received a permit through MIT’s Safety Office. Officers inspected the area and found it suitable for the event, Ferazani said. The fire watch will ensure that the crowd and combustibles remain away from the fire and that extinguishers are present, he said. “Everyone should have a good time,” Ferazani said, echoing the words of many administrators, “but it has to be a safe time.”

In other minor changes, MIT Dining will oversee the cooking of the steer. Senior House residents will still perform the cooking: MIT dining “is there to take the blame if something goes wrong,” Brasher said. East side dormitory patrolman James “Big Jimmy” Roberts will, as usual, obtain the six sides of beef to be prepared at the party.

Problems with obtaining city of Cambridge assembly permits mean that several events usually held inside will be moved out of doors. Instead of hosting strippers inside Senior House, belly dancers will perform outside, Brasher said.

To satisfy one of the administration’s original concerns, students will not be able to sit on ledges during the party. Organizers will “ask people not to sit on ledges,” Brasher said.

As a further measure, five Senior House residents have received Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) training in preparation for the party. In addition, a “safety patrol” of students will roam the party. “Students really do take care of each other,” Madden said, but the safety patrol provides the extra measure of security demanded by administrators.

Despite early antagonism between organizers and the administration, Brasher said that they were willing to work with administrators to find a compromise solution. “If we fought they would just say no,” Brasher said.

Madden said that the type of compromise that enabled this year’s Steer Roast should serve as an example for planners of future events. “We are setting up policies to deal with the new era MIT is in,” she said.

Dormitory Council President Jennifer A. Frank ’00 said that the compromise was a good example of students and administrators working together.

Both Madden and Brasher stressed the necessity of preserving the tradition of events like Steer Roast. The party “empowers students to express themselves,” Madden said. A number of live bands as well as a small gallery of residents’ art work highlights the creative aspect of a party known more for mud wrestling.

Despite the compromises necessary to hold the event, both were pleased with the outcome. “I think it’s going to be great,” Madden said.

Doors for Steer Roast open at 7 p.m. on Saturday. In the meantime, t-shirts bearing this year’s motto (“Sport Roast ... only liability can kill you”) are available for purchase at Senior House desk for $15. Related stories:

Institute Threatens Steer Roast
March 17, 2000