Party plan rejected by housemasters
By Eva Moy
A final draft of the Policy Statement on the Use of Alcohol released in early October has aroused criticism within the Undergraduate Association that student views were ignored in the final drafting process, said UA Vice President J. Paul Kirby '92. In particular, the decision to slash the proposal that closed events be registered with the individual dormitory housemasters was made without student input, Kirby charged.
The policy currently states that students must register all events serving alcohol with the Office of Residence and Campus Activities and obtain approval from the Campus Police.
In the draft version, closed events could be registered with the housemasters of the individual dormitories instead of with the housing office, Kirby said. The students and housemasters of each dormitory would also be responsible for constructing a registration policy specific to their dormitory.
Closed events are defined as events that are "limited to the residents only, or limited to residents and invited guests not to exceed a crowd of 100 persons," according to the policy statement.
Although discussions concerning the alcohol policy have been going on since last spring, this option of registering closed events with a housemaster came up after the main discussions, Kirby said.
The Council of Housemasters unanimously voted down the proposal in September. But students were not made aware of the vote of the housemasters until after the final decision to slash the proposal had been made by the Student Affairs Office, Kirby said.
The Office of the Dean for Student Affairs had required the Dormitory Council and the individual houses to submit their own version of an alcohol policy by Oct. 31. If they failed to comply, they would not receive their house taxes for the spring term, said Jay M. Goodliffe, '92, president of MacGregor House. But the ODSA printed their final alcohol policy before this deadline, Goodliffe said.
"I don't understand why they gave us a deadline and then printed their report without any student input," said Linda R. Cavazos '92, president of McCormick Hall.
"I'm not really offended" that students' opinions were not included, Goodliffe said. He added that he "would have preferred for them to wait."
The problem is that there was no student input in the final decision, Kirby said. "The force of [the housemasters'] argument [lies in] how students would react, and yet, admittedly, they did not consult students about this decision at all. . . . What I would ask is to let each house decide through the vote of the residents, not through the vote of the housemasters."
"It was their decision," said Baker House President Geoffrey C. Mayne '92. "I don't necessarily agree with their decision. . . [but] it's really the housemasters' decision."
Dean for Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith "was unwilling to pursue the issue with the housemasters, and therefore the issue failed," Kirby said.
Associate Dean for Residence and Campus Activities James R. Tewhey, who worked on the alcohol policy was unavailable for comment.
relationships at risk
Among the reasons the housemasters cited in voting down the proposal were potential changes in the student-advisor relationship, varying policies at different houses and possible added liabilities that housemasters would take on, said Senior House Housemaster James T. Higginbotham.
"We worried that the [relationship] of students to housemasters would change because we would be more of an extension of Institute policy [and] of the dean's office than we would like to be," he said.
Cavazos agreed. "I see the reasoning why they did it, because they want to be our friends and not our policemen," she said.
"If anything," said Kirby, "maybe students would begin to view registration in a positive light if the housemasters, the people who they respect -- the people who they like, they trust -- were all in charge of this instead of random dean's office people."
Uniformity of alcohol
Another concern of the housemasters was that alcohol policies would not be uniform across the different dormitories. Higginbotham was concerned that certain dormitories would get reputations from their alcohol policies. "It seems to me that it's the kind of function that's best served from a central point because it should be a uniform policy for the whole Institute," he said.
Kirby had a different outlook on the situation. "I think that the different standards might actually turn out to be a good thing. . . . What would happen is that the houses would build consensus on what they think reasonable standards are rather than having an arbitrary standard imposed on them," Kirby said.
This part of the alcohol policy had originated because the housing office was overworked, Higginbotham said. As a direct result of the new alcohol policy, more staff have been hired to handle alcohol party registration, said Director of Campus Activities Susanna C. Hinds.
a source of concern
The housemasters also were concerned about any increased legal liability that would follow from party registration, Higginbotham said.
Kirby said, "I believe that they have an irrational worry about their legal liability when, in fact, Institute lawyers have told them over and over again that their liability would neither increase or decrease with this proposed changed. And I think that they have a rational worry that if students are given this option, some of them might take advantage of it."
"Indeed there are a number of reasons we're supposing that [not having increased liability] is not true, despite what the lawyers say," said Higginbotham.
He added that he doesn't think "the question of liability is the driving force," but rather "the driving force behind the objection was that it would fundamentally alter the relations between students and housemasters."