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Area colleges establish new alcohol policies

By Suzanne J. Sandor

Five major Boston-area colleges have reacted in varying degrees to the June 1 raising of the Commonwealth's drinking age from 20 to 21.

Boston College (BC), Boston University (BU), Tufts University, Wellesley College, and Harvard University are among several local institutions that have adopted guidelines to limit drinking by underage students.

Most undergraduates in the Boston area are too young to legally consume or buy alcohol. "Each institution handles this issue in different ways given the nature of the student body ... [but] people in general do drink responsibly," said Leo Osgood, MIT assistant dean for student affairs.

The alcohol policies at BC have become more rigid this year, according to The Heights, a BC college newspaper. The school's Policies and Procedures Manual prohibits the use of "beer balls" at any social gathering. Alcohol is prohibited at any Newton or Upper Campus location and is subject to confiscation.

No BC students under the legal drinking age may consume or possess alcohol. Anyone under 21 founding transporting, possessing or consuming alcohol is subject to judicial action.

Lou Mastriano, the Mods Area coordinator, told The Heights that the revised alcohol policy is "in the best interest of the students. ... [I] saw alcohol abused by a few students, which ruins it for the responsible drinkers."

BC Dean of Students Edward J. Hanrahan, defended the policy, saying that it reflected the law. "The university has been extremely consistent in stressing the responsible element in drinking. Alcohol abuse creates a big problem in American society and abuse hurts the university," he stated in The Heights.

BU, unlike MIT, accepts only a Massachusetts driver's license or Liquor Identification Card from the Registry of Motor Vehicles as identification for drinking at parties, according to BU Assistant Dean Christopher Queen.

BU does not allow alcohol at undergraduate parties, Queen said. Three warnings for attempting to use false identification result in a loss of housing for the student in question. One BU fraternity was disbarred under a deferred suspension during the school's dry rush this year, Queen continued.

BU is currently sponsoring an Alcohol Education Week this week to draw attention to the issue of alcohol, Queen said. "BU wants to be drug-free and alcohol-free."

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Tufts University permits alcohol to be served at university-sponsored parties, according to Kathy Baker, Tufts director of student affairs. The university changed two elements of its alcohol policy this year: a separate drinking room must exist at parties with alcohol, and food is required where alcohol is being served.

Alcohol education has been getting attention at Tufts, Baker continued. Ten students sit on the ad hoc Committee for Alcohol Education formed to address the alcohol issue on campus. The school is sponsoring Health Week in conjunction with Alcohol Awareness Week beginning Thursday, she said.

Wellesley College's Alcohol Policy Committee (APC) altered the school's alcohol policy this year, according to The Wellesley News. Students are no longer required to report drinking by underage students, the article reported.

Dean of Students Molly Campbell, founder of the APC, said that students are responsible for their own drinking behavior under the new policy, according to The Wellesley News.

Wellesley parties have separate drinking rooms, and campus police monitor parties. Similar policies exist at MIT and Tufts parties.

Harvard University has made the fewest modifications. No major changes have been planned yet, although tentative policies have been discussed.

Liquor may be served only at in-house parties and is banned at university-wide parties, according to The Harvard Crimson. Harvard students also must purchase a Massachusetts Liquor Identification Card from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Freshmen are still served liquor even with these restrictions. "Many masters' open houses still serve liquor under the legal theory of in loco parentis, which holds that the house master or freshman dorm proctor is acting in place of a student's parents," reported the Crimson.

Dormitory events that are sponsored by house committees where alcohol is served are losing money, stated the Crimson.

Harvard's new drinking policy "has destroyed the houses' ability to make money," said Quincy House Committee Chairman Jonathan M. Askin in the article. "It's very difficult to throw a successful dance because people don't want to go to a dance without alcohol."