Student Fees for Strippers?

Joke designed to make point about dormitory's funding of campus groups strikes some students as unfunny.
September 22, 2006

Several Massachusetts Institute of Technology students hatched a scheme last spring to show how easy it would be to abuse a campus system for distributing funds to student groups. Their plan -- to see if they could successfully request money to hire strippers -- worked all too well, and the resulting mess has angered some students and embarrassed MIT officials.

"All I can say is that it was never the intention to actually carry out a stripper event," Matt Long, a junior involved with the plan wrote in an email Thursday.

MIT's student newspaper reported last week that the student-run governing structure at Simmons Hall, one of MIT's residence halls, had approved a proposal to use house funds to hire strippers last spring. The plan then survived a challenge this month after another Simmons resident filed a proposal to repeal it.

An MIT official declined to elaborate further on the details of the vote, but the Simmons housemaster, John M. Essigmann, a professor of toxicology and chemistry, said that the dorm's approach to governance is based on a New England town meeting, with each member of the house having a vote and a responsibility to the community. Only 29 of Simmons' 350 residents attended the spring meeting at which the proposal was approved, the Harvard Crimson reported Thursday .

The students behind the proposal say it was a prank all along, but the joke clearly wasn’t funny to some who voted unsuccessfully for its repeal this month.

“The purpose of writing and passing the absurd proposal was to very clearly highlight the ease of obtaining thousands of dollars for any purpose whatsoever from Simmons Hall," Long said in his e-mail. "Hopefully with the publicity our proposal made, the Simmons Hall government will rethink the logic of allowing a handful of residents to legally procure thousands (of) house dollars without a house majority approval ever again."

"It was all a big joke and we didn't expect it to be a big deal," Matthew Caballero, another junior involved in the plan wrote in an e-mail.

But there is apparently nothing in place at MIT to stop such a stunt from becoming reality. Ellen M. Essigmann, who shares housemaster duties with John, said that to her knowledge, there is no rule or regulation barring the use of house funds to hire strippers.

"At MIT, we have what's called home rule within the dormitories. Obviously, all of the dormitories have to comply with state, federal, local and MIT rules and regulations, but with regards to use of the student funds, these are funds that belong to the students; that is up to them to decide how to use them," said Ellen Essigmann.

John Essigmann said the funds for the stripping event, suggested as a finals activity, have not yet been tapped. He added that there has not been much on-campus discussion of the plan. "Two other residence halls hire strippers on a more or less regular basis."


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