Letters to the Editor

In his November 2, 2010 Opinion piece “The intimate civic duty,” Russell Rodewald misuses a Guttmacher Institute statistic — that half of women having abortions used contraception in the month they became pregnant — to make the claim that birth control is ineffective in preventing unintended pregnancies and abortion. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the statistic.

The two-thirds of women at risk of unintended pregnancy who use contraception consistently and correctly account for only 5 percent of unintended pregnancies, while the roughly one in ten who use no contraception account for half. Using any contraceptive method reduces a couple’s chances of having an unintended pregnancy by 85 percent, and properly using the most effective methods virtually eliminates that risk. Indeed, nearly all Americans acknowledge this: 99 percent of sexually active people have used contraception at some point in their lives.

Access to contraception dramatically reduces the chance of having an unplanned pregnancy, the precursor event to almost every abortion. If the goal is truly to reduce the need for abortion, the best approach is to increase contraceptive access and use — not to attack it.

—Lawrence B. Finer, Ph.D.
Director of Domestic Research,
Guttmacher Institute

Greek life is awesome

Editor’s note: This letter was addressed to members of the Greek community at MIT.

I’d like to share with you some of my experiences with Greek life at MIT. I hope that as you read this, you can relive some of your memories from your time spent in one of the best Greek systems in the country, no matter what your chapter.

My first experience with fraternities at MIT was an admittedly scary one. I was visiting in November of 2007 as a senior in high school, trying this whole “east coast” thing (I hail from Northern Colorado). My host was hosed, so he left me to the care of his friend Arron. After strolling strobe alley and hearing the 1.00 lecture, Arron said that we would be going to his fraternity for dinner. I imagined what it would be like: a bunch of drunks walking around in togas while hazing pledges. My entire knowledge of “frats” came from a viewing of Animal House when I was probably ten years old and my dad’s stories from when he was in Kappa Sig back in the late 70s. I was absolutely terrified, but I didn’t want to appear rude, so I came along quietly.

We took SafeRide to the house after a long wait in the cold (these were the days before NextBus). After giving me the requisite tour of the house, Arron settled in to work, leaving me to my own devices. Soon enough, I heard someone yell “Dinner!” up the central stairwell and the subsequent thunder of hungry brothers running down the stairs. I had milk with dinner, as I was positive that the lemonade had been spiked. After dinner, we watched V for Vendetta, and I got a sense for what brotherhood could be, and the insane feeling of belonging and support that so many of the brothers seemed to feel.

You probably know how the story plays out: After a crazy week of rush, I decided to pledge. The last two years have completely reshaped who I am, and in no small part because of my decision to go Greek. My freshman year, the experience of meeting all the brothers, bonding with my pledge class over ridiculous dinners and experiences, and a real social outlet — these gave me a sense of community that I didn’t get from living in a dorm. I know that many of my brothers will be some of the closest friends that I will ever have. I committed to this from the start, and so did they. We are a community with a house, not a house with a community.

I’m sure that all members of a Greek organization have similar stories and sentiments. Fraternities provided some of the first housing of students at MIT, and with only a few exceptions, most of the chapters that exist today existed 50, 60 or even more than 70 years ago. Each chapter goes through ups and downs, but they all continue to thrive. As evidenced by the fact that there have been three new organizations come to MIT in the past two years, we have one of the strongest and sought-after Greek systems in the nation.

Each chapter offers its members something unique, but we are all part of a larger community, whether that’s our national organizations or — more relevantly — the MIT Greek experience. We have more in common than we realize, and we often get caught up in our differences. We should celebrate the fact that we are all MIT students who have chosen to be a part of something much larger than our four years here.

We should continuously take pride in our organizations. Fraternities and sororities are unlike any other student group at MIT. We are groups founded in values and history. I have personally witnessed the history and size of organization, and let me tell you, it’s powerful. I had the honor to attend my fraternity’s biennial convention over the summer. Members and alumni from all over the US and Canada flew down to Orlando. Some of them, nearing 80 or 90 years old, had no business getting on a plane, but the fraternity meant that much to them that they had to be there. There is no experience that can compare to seeing several hundred of my brothers performing our fraternity’s ritual. If you ever have a chance to attend your organization’s convention, I highly encourage it. It was through events like these, that I truly felt like I “was a part of it.”

I hope that all of you have found an enriching community in your Greek organization, and I hope you will continue to cherish these memories long after your time at MIT. I know I will.

—Tim Stumbaugh ’12
Phi Delta Theta