A Letter to the MIT Community from the President of the MIT Undergraduate Association

To the MIT Community:

In the last weeks, our students have experienced a great deal of grief. We have had thrust upon us adversity enough to stop many the average will; however, we are surviving. We are pulling together and trying to sort out our feelings about our loss. We are diligently seeking a healing and peace that can only be found on the other side of adversity. As we continue with the healing process, a greater imperative becomes increasingly more evident. This imperative is the treatment of alcohol on the MIT Campus.

While the irresponsible use of alcohol is a problem that is not exclusive to MIT, it is a problem to which the student population on this campus has become increasingly more sensitive as a result of recent events. This sensitivity must be maintained and nurtured. A comprehensive program regarding alcohol awareness is lacking at the Institute. In order to touch everyone who walks the infinite corridor, there must exist a program that is far reaching. A program that instills in every student the education and fear that is so necessary to avoid the terrors of alcohol abuse.

The fear of which we speak is not a fear of the unknown. This fear is not a fear of disciplinary actions from "big brother," and it is not a fear of the law or over-regulation; rather, this fear is a fear of the deadly consequences of excessive drinking and abuse of other substances that is all too often forgotten. It is this combination of information and reservation that will make us successful in our efforts to avoid another coming to consciousness as the one we have all recently experienced.

This is a time when we as a community must come together, and work together, and think together about the things that make us a unique environment. MIT is a special place. As a result of this individuality and uniqueness of circumstances, we require special efforts. Best practice examinations of other institutions are encouraged; however, we must always remember that those institutions are not MIT. The culture that makes us what we are is something that is very sacred. It is something that has been developed over 130 years since William Barton Rogers decided to erect an institution of higher education devoted to the engineering arts and sciences. While we cannot let this culture threaten our existence or continued success and progress, we must not forget its impact on our excellence. These facts must be taken into account before any changes are proposed and implemented.

By nature, we are problem solvers. And my friends, we have here a problem. This is not a fraternity problem. It is not a sorority problem. It is not a problem that is indicative of dorms or other independent living groups. This is not a problem that is tied to race, class, or gender while many would have you believe this. Rather, this is a problem that needs a solution. This is the attitude that we must bring to all our discussion. We must trail this mindset into the rooms, seminars, committees, dorms, fraternities, sororities, and other segments of our community where we will be battling the behemoth of alcohol.

We must support and protect the pure flow of information in this time of reevaluation and reflection. All of us here at MIT thirst for information. When that thirst cannot be quenched through pristine information, we are reduced to tapping that network of "He said," "They tell me," and "It looks like," commonly referred to as the grapevine. When this alternate information network is employed, we alienate those that are most important to us. We have seen symptoms of this in the last week, and it must be avoided in the future.

As we plan to effect change in the MIT community we must bear in mind the fact that this change can only be effective and lasting if it comes from within. Changes that affect the MIT community must be driven and influenced by the voice of the MIT community. A former administrator here was fond of saying "You only know what you know." This statement could not be more true. We only know what we know; therefore, in order to know what others know, we must share information. We must take in their opinions and feedback, filter and map them to our situation, and proceed. This is the only acceptable path. In an attempt to stem the retreat to the vine as a beverage, we must also battle the resort to the vine as an information source. When the community is forced to choose the grapevine resolve, we only add insult to injury.

If we ever needed to pull together an MIT Quilt, it is now. This is the chance. This is the opportunity. Some positive energy may emanate from our adversity, but it must be a joining energy. This issue cannot further divide us. It must pull us together in a spirit of respecting our fellow classmates and schoolmates in a common cause -- helping one another. This is our purpose. And it is a grand one.

We must ensure that there exist adequate measures to educate the MIT community about the impact of alcohol at MIT. We must insure that instances of grievous alcohol abuse do not arise undeterred in the MIT community. We must ensure that when this issue is far removed from the surface, our thoughts and processes are so in place that proper use of alcohol is a natural instinct.

I further encourage the world that has watched this little bastion of education so intently over the last week to take something more away from these circumstances than "the scoop" or a wringing of hands. We must tackle this issue head on. When alcohol is equated with fun, we have a problem that requires a fundamental paradigm shift. It is up to us to determine when and where that paradigm shift shall begin. We are the masters of our fates. Let us not forget that.

Think hard; think long; think deeply. Let your thoughts be heard, and most importantly, support each other.

With forward vision, I am

Dedric A. Carter '98

MIT Undergraduate Association

Topics: Students

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