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Dean Bans Open Fires In Dorms

Candles Allowed in Common Areas

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Two fires started by unattended Hanukkah candles in dorm rooms have prompted Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 to ban all open flames in dorm rooms no matter what the reason, he said yesterday.

Instead, Lewis said common areas in the houses and dorms can be used for the lighting of the candles. For example, a room with windows, like a house dining room or a house common room, could be utilized.

"Most of the houses will accommodate in a more public space the lighting of the candles," Lewis said, noting that the "reasonable alternative" of having the celebrations elsewhere allowed him to tighten the restrictions on open flames.

David J. Andorsky '97, Hillel chair, said he hoped a proposal could be found that would satisfy "both the need for safety and the need for students to practice their religion and not feel stifled."

Andorsky added he had not heard about the proposal before, and emphasized he could not make any judgments yet.

The compromise of using common areas for the lighting of Hanukkah candles might be an acceptable outcome, but not the most desirable one, Andorsky said.

"One religious requirement is that the candles can be seen from outside the room. Additionally, I know students like to do things in their own room," Andorsky said.

All the house masters contacted last night said they already have Hanukkah celebrations in the common areas and would continue to do so.

"It's been a well-attended and communal part of the house," Eliot House Master Stephen A. Mitchell said of his house common Hanukkah celebration. According to Jurij Striedter and Paul A. Hanson, the masters of Cabot and Winthrop Houses, respectively, said their houses also have traditionally held similar celebrations.

Hanson supports the complete ban on open flames in dorm rooms because of a fire that broke out while he was the master of Dudley House.

"We had a serious fire that was life-threatening. It was not [caused by] a menorah, but it was an open candle," Hanson said. "I am in favor of a policy of not allowing open fire in any of our rooms."

"The other side is that I am very much in favor of having a provision made for common room space [for] religious festivals, including the candles of a menorah," he added.

Students who have traditionally observed Hanukkah in their rooms, however, expressed disappointment at the news.

"I do have to object to that because I think people can be trusted as responsible adults to have flames in their rooms when the guidelines are very clear," Michael A. Sugarman '98 said. "People have to be trusted to use their common sense."

Sugarman said that most of the past problems occurred when people left menorahs unattended near flammable materials, a violation of current fire restrictions.

"It seems to me that this certainly is an issue of danger, in terms of people leaving their candles unattended," said Wendy A. Amsellem '96. "I know that I myself would find my religious practices very much curtailed by not being allowed to light the candles in my room."

She added that she would not be completely opposed to participating in a ceremony in a house common area, but she would prefer to leave things the way they were.

"As a compromise, it wouldn't be bad, but there is a specific tradition of lighting where you live," Amsellem said. "It helps to make your room your own.

"It's been a well-attended and communal part of the house," Eliot House Master Stephen A. Mitchell said of his house common Hanukkah celebration. According to Jurij Striedter and Paul A. Hanson, the masters of Cabot and Winthrop Houses, respectively, said their houses also have traditionally held similar celebrations.

Hanson supports the complete ban on open flames in dorm rooms because of a fire that broke out while he was the master of Dudley House.

"We had a serious fire that was life-threatening. It was not [caused by] a menorah, but it was an open candle," Hanson said. "I am in favor of a policy of not allowing open fire in any of our rooms."

"The other side is that I am very much in favor of having a provision made for common room space [for] religious festivals, including the candles of a menorah," he added.

Students who have traditionally observed Hanukkah in their rooms, however, expressed disappointment at the news.

"I do have to object to that because I think people can be trusted as responsible adults to have flames in their rooms when the guidelines are very clear," Michael A. Sugarman '98 said. "People have to be trusted to use their common sense."

Sugarman said that most of the past problems occurred when people left menorahs unattended near flammable materials, a violation of current fire restrictions.

"It seems to me that this certainly is an issue of danger, in terms of people leaving their candles unattended," said Wendy A. Amsellem '96. "I know that I myself would find my religious practices very much curtailed by not being allowed to light the candles in my room."

She added that she would not be completely opposed to participating in a ceremony in a house common area, but she would prefer to leave things the way they were.

"As a compromise, it wouldn't be bad, but there is a specific tradition of lighting where you live," Amsellem said. "It helps to make your room your own.

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