Microwave Myth Must Be Debunked

Letters to the Editors

To the editors:

I was disappointed to see that the Feb. 9 article about Leverett House inspections (News, “Room Inspections Catch Leverett House Residents by Surprise) did not challenge the myth, perpetuated by Harvard Student Agencies (HSA) and University administrators, that possession of microwaves and other cooking appliances besides the HSA microfridge constitutes a violation of a “fire code.” In fact, this piece ignores the debunking work done on the topic by The Crimson’s weekend magazine, Fifteen Minutes.

A story from October 10, 2002 titled “What If It Were All a Lie?” explains that microwaves do not violate any sort of state or local fire code, nor—according to the Cambridge Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau—do they even constitute a particularly notable fire hazard (there are many microwaves available that are cheaper than the HSA microfridge and run on a lower wattage, low wattage being the alleged reason for the microfridge’s safe and legal status). Rather, it is the state sanitary code, which has nothing to do with fire safety, that forbids cooking appliances of any kind in dormitories. However, a follow-up letter to the editor, printed on Oct. 15, 2002, notes that an amendment to state law passed in 1989 exempts dormitories and fraternity houses from the sanitary code’s microwave prohibitions.

Ben D. Mathis-Lilley ’03

Washington D.C

Feb. 9, 2004

The writer was magazine chair of The Crimson in 2002.