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Fourth West, MIT Working To Avoid Future Incidents

By Kevin R. Lang


Fourth floor residents of East Campus’ west parallel are working with housemasters and MIT administrators to prevent future problems after campus police found a marijuana plant in the room of Peter N. Merkx ’04 on Jan. 9.

Hall co-chair Cristina M. Costantino ’03 said that the hall was waiting to hear the administration’s decision on Feb. 4, but “so far they have been very understanding.”

Costantino said MIT was disappointed that some students on the hall knew the marijuana plant existed and did not report it to administrators. Several residents confirmed that the plant belonged to Merkx, who began living on Fourth West in September. Merkx is no longer living on the hall.

Residents said they hoped to work with administrators to ensure that one student’s actions would not implicate the entire hall in the future. “We are working very hard with the administration,” Costantino said.

Another Fourth West resident said she was pleased with the progress thus far. “I’m actually pretty satisfied with what the administration is doing,” said Sarah W. Low ’02. “We all really like where we live, and we don’t want to have to move.”

Low said hall residents were upset that that entire hall was being implicated for one student’s actions.

Fourth West resident Jessica H. Harvey ’02 agreed. “The only person who did anything wrong was Peter,” Harvey said. “We did nothing wrong.” She said that after Merkx was caught, “he tried to make it look like other people were involved” when speaking to administrators.

After speaking to both housemasters and Assistant Dean Carol Orme-Johnson, Harvey said that Orme-Johnson “said that we as a hall are not in trouble.”

“That’s the good thing that’s coming out of this -- we’re definitely talking to each other more and pulling together more,” Harvey said.

Keg not registered to any resident

Several Fourth West residents confirmed that the keg found by campus police was empty, and had been sitting in the “Elvis shrine” closet for some time.

“The keg in the closet was empty,” Costantino said.

Low said that the keg was not bought by anyone from Fourth West. “No one really knows how it got here,” Low said. She said that Campus Police confirmed that it was not registered to any residents of the hall. Low did not think that the keg was a primary concern for MIT. “It hasn’t really been mentioned in our meetings [with administrators],” Low said.

Cause of fire alarms uncertain

No specific causes for the two fire alarms which led to the discovery of the marijuana plant and beer keg have been established by residents of Fourth West. Several residents confirmed that the fire department noticed the marijuana plant after responding to the alarm, and subsequently reported it to the Campus Police.

Costantino said she was not present at the time the first alarm went off on Jan. 9, but said she had heard that the student’s humidifier might have set off the alarm.

“We have a really funny fire alarm system in the dorm,” Costantino said. She said that to her knowledge the alarm did, in fact, originate in the room where Campus Police later found the plant.

However, Low said she had heard from some residents that the alarm originated in the kitchen, but the fire department mistook a towel hanging over Merkx’s door for a rescue signal.

Harvey said that residents had “been told a lot of different things” about the source of the alarms.

“We’ve always had problems [with fire alarms],” Low said.