WILG acts on complaints about BCC
The Tech (MIT), April 27, 1990.
By Irene C. Kuo
The behavior of two Boston Church of Christ members at the Women’s Independent Living Group has prompted its residents to consider adopting MIT’s harassment policy into the house’s constitution. Offenders could be expelled from the house if the amendment is passed.
A resident of WILG who wished to remain anonymous said problems began last semester when the two members invited residents to BCC activities without revealing their church affiliation. “The two concentrated a lot on freshmen, and freshmen were beginning to feel uncomfortable,” she said. Another resident said that one freshman was even afraid to return home at the end of the day. “We realized that it was a big issue when they got two members in one month. Then other people came forward to say that they had been harassed, too,” the second resident recounted. She added that the amendment, if passed, would not be retroactive.
Jee-Lian Yap ’90, one of the BCC members, acknowledged that some of the complaints were valid. “It’s fine to invite friends to Bible studies, but I wasn’t friends [with the people I asked].” Yap added that she did not want her actions to represent the BCC, although she complained that some house residents misunderstood her. “People had preconceptions which showed up when they found out I was a member of BCC,” she said. She maintained that she did not try to recruit for her church.
Kimberly A. Oakberg ’91, the other BCC member, regarded the amendment as a positive thing. “It helps a lot to know what people are thinking,” she noted. “I do not want to needlessly bother people, and I may have acted naively.”
“On the other hand, I don’t think that what I did constituted harassment,” she said.
WILG approached the MIT’s advisor to independent living groups, Neal H. Dorow, and the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs before deciding to deal with the situation in an internal manner. The house had feared it would be sued if it took drastic measures against the BCC members, but the ODSA reassured residents that the house could use MIT’s lawyers if the need arose and is currently trying to devise guidelines for WILG residents.
History of problems
The BCC has often been criticized for its aggressive recruitment tactics. Its members repeatedly approached students in Project Interphase, a summer program for incoming freshmen, three years ago before Dean for Student Affairs Shirley M. McBay stepped forward to call the incidents “highly inappropriate.” At the time, Rev. Bernard J. Campbell, the Roman Catholic counselor at MIT, said the issue was whether groups like the BCC were inviting students to see what they were doing or were specifically recruiting them.
“We’re aware of their presence,” Professor Vernon M. Ingram, housemaster of Ashdown House, said of BCC members. He said he could recall two or three incidents where they seemed to be putting “undue pressure” on residents, but said that no formal complaints were lodged.
Ingram acknowledged that the situation was difficult since not all BCC members were at fault, but added that he was “keeping an eye on the situation” and would approach BCC members if he sees their activities spreading. “Since the people most `at risk’ of joining the BCC are new students who are lonely, we try very hard to introduce people to support groups, whether they be continued.
“A good orientation is important, anyway, but it is more important now,” Ingram said.
Associate Dean for Student Affairs Robert M. Randolph did not know of problems with the BCC at other living groups. “We’re going to help WILG as much as we can. The situation is tricky because while we don’t allow the BCC to schedule 10-250 for Bible studies, we can’t control what goes on in people’s rooms.” He said his office will try to convince the BCC, which also calls itself the MIT Student Christian Assocation, to be “more ethical in advertising.” “The problem with the BCC is that they are neither responsible nor responsive,” Randolph explained. “I am not interested in saying that they shouldn’t be here, but they should value other people enough to respect their wishes to be left alone.”