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Ban Approved Despite Student Protests

By Lauren E. LeBon


MIT will implement the recommendations from the flag committee to ban flags, banners, and other items to the exteriors of dormitories, said Dean of Student Life Larry G. Benedict.

The ban was approved just a day after undergraduate students staged a campus-wide protest against the ban by hanging assorted banners and other items outside of their windows.

Housing group approves plan

Benedict heads the housing strategies group, which includes Chancellor Phillip L. Clay and Dean of graduate students Issac A. Colbert. On Wednesday, the group reviewed the flag committee proposal, drafted by a committee of administrators and students in January, and chose to adopt the proposal’s two main recommendations.

The first part of the policy clearly bans the hanging of posters and other items on the outside of dormitories, Benedict said. The second portion of the policy urges house governments to “develop their own guidelines for materials that may be displayed within their residence,” according to the original flag committee proposal.

The new policy is not much different from the existing policy, but this new policy is written in clearer language and aims to ensure that the regulations are “consistently enforced,” said Benedict.

The original housing regulation read, “The use of flammable decorations, including natural evergreens, in any room, corridor, stairwell, lounge, dining hall, lobby and other public areas is prohibited by Massachusetts fire laws. The use of non-flammable decorations must be approved by the House Manager.”

Students protest proposal

On Tuesday morning, several undergraduate students expressed their disapproval of the proposed policies by hanging banners and other items from their windows, said Director of Housing Karen A. Nilsson.

Nilsson said when she arrived at MIT on Tuesday morning, there were several items hung from various residence halls. By noon, housing had removed most of the items under the existing policy that prohibits items from being hung on dormitory fronts.

Most of the hung items, Nilsson said, were “pretty harmless,” such as stuffed animals and banners.

Flags of different nationalities hung from windows of East Campus. Meanwhile, at Bexley Hall, a banner read “Bexxxley Supports Karen Nilssan![sic]” Nilsson said she appreciated the support, but the banner had to come down according to the policy.

However, not all of the items were harmless. Nilsson said one item had the potential to cause “serious, serious personal damage”: the large banner hung from the 16th floor of MacGregor House to the ninth floor of Simmons Hall.

Nilsson said the banner was hung with wire cabling, which made it very difficult to take down safely. The banner hung over Amherst and Vassar streets, and cutting the wire could “whip back” and hit traffic or pedestrians. Also, the wire cabling could hit high-voltage power lines on Amherst and Vassar streets and potentially knock out power.

Nilsson said the removal process was difficult, “quite expensive,” and involved the MIT Campus Police and the MIT Safety Office.

Still, Nilsson said that the students she talked to throughout the day were “pretty cooperative.”

“I think today was a difficult day for housing,” Nilsson said on Tuesday.

Sam H. Kendig ’06 said he did not directly participate in the flag protest because his window in East Campus does not open fully. He did, however, assist his hallmates in hanging items.

“If MIT wants to say we aren’t allowed to hang flags, that’s perfectly their right, these are MIT buildings,” Kendig said.

New policy considers exceptions

Benedict said that the new policy will not be closed to exceptions. For example, Benedict said a dormitory could have an exemption for hanging a welcome sign during orientation.

Also exempt from the new policy are window air conditioners, said Nilsson.

Window air conditioners, provided they are safely installed and approved by house managers and maintenance staff, may be approved on a case-by-case basis, Nilsson said.