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UA shifts focus to house tax

By Sarah Keightley

This year, the consideration of two separate alcohol policies -- the Institute's Policy Statement on the Use of Alcohol and the Dormitory Council's alcohol policy -- has received much attention and criticism.

The Institute's policy "basically contains standards for events that students run, the faculty runs and clubs run," said J. Paul Kirby '92, vice president of the Undergraduate Association. The Institute's policy applies to everybody at MIT with the exception of Lincoln Labs.

DormCon's policy concerns the issue of alcohol in dormitories in general, including its purchase.

"The UA had a large role in forming the Institute's alcohol policy," said Kirby, who headed the UA's Committee on Student Life and Alcohol Policy Committee subdivision last year. Institute policy was last revised in September 1988. Now that the final draft is finished, 1500 brochures are being printed for distribution to the MIT community within the next few weeks.

The Policy Statement on the Use of Alcohol summarizes state and local laws pertaining to alcohol. It also outlines the policies for Institute events where alcohol will be served.

Efforts in revising the Institute's policy "were directed towards consistent standards," Kirby said, adding that past policy forced dormitories and student groups hosting events where alcohol was served to have cash bars, meaning they had to charge for alcohol. In theory, the cash bar would deter consumption, but in reality, students charged a quarter or a nickel for a drink, Kirby said. Cambridge law requires a one-day liquor license for events with a cash bar, including these parties. This resulted in "needless hassles" for students because they had to find a student over 21 with valid Massachusetts identification and willing to take responsibility to buy the license, he said.

Faculty, on the other hand, could give away alcohol at their functions. "The faculty and administration got away with a lot. We wanted to set a tone for events which does not create a double standard," Kirby said. With the revised policy, no one has to have a cash bar.

Another change is that the Institute's policy now applies to independent living groups. Before, the InterFraternity Council regulated the alcohol policy in ILGs, but now the Institute's policy "encompasses" all of MIT, Kirby said.

DormCon continues to

work on own policy

According to Geoffrey C. Mayne '92, president of Baker House, the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs asked DormCon to create their own alcohol policy in early October. Also, each dormitory was asked to come up with its own alcohol policy.

DormCon presented Tewhey with a policy, which he rejected in early November. Members of DormCon responded by sending a letter to Tewhey.

Senior House President David W. Hogg '92 said, "Since then, I've learned from [ODSA] that there was significant miscommunication. It sounds like the deans and DormCon didn't disagree as widely as thought."

DormCon plans to draft a list of objectives stating what they would like to see the alcohol policy accomplish. DormCon will then "see how much overlaps with the Dean's Office," said Hogg.

Hogg said one of DormCon's main objectives is to have a policy that discourages over-drinking. They favor a policy that allows students to "drink in relaxed, social situations, rather than sequestered away in their rooms or drinking in excess at parties," Hogg said. "We are much less concerned with underage drinking than responsible drinking."

A limited house tax policy would encourage the purchase of cheaper alcohol rather than more responsible drinking, Hogg said. "Then there would be beer blasts instead of cocktail parties or having wine with a house dinner. Once we've written out what we hope to accomplish, it will point the way to a new house tax limit," he said. Hogg said he hopes DormCon and ODSA will come to an agreement.

There will only be one more meeting of the current DormCon, so Hogg doubts the policy will be finished before then. Still, he predicts that the policy will be worked out by the end of Independent Activities Period.

Next House President Seth M. Cohen '92 is not as optimistic. We are working to "bridge our differences" with the ODSA, but "the administration has been back and forth with us," he said.

Alcohol policy has

troubled history here

According to Kirby, the UA has had a history of substantial involvement with alcohol issues. Three years ago, he said, the alcohol debate primarily concerned alcohol education. Last year, alcohol issues focused on a keg ban and recommendations made by the UA Alcohol Policy Committee. Since then, the focus has shifted towards the use of house tax for alcohol.

Last year's confusion with the keg ban stemmed from a factual error in the Basic Regulations of the Institute Houses which stated that both Cambridge and Boston had passed ordinances prohibiting kegs from college residences. Actually, there was no keg ban in Cambridge; the city decided to allow MIT and Harvard to make their own policies.

Students were upset because they thought the ban was absolute. But MIT's ban on kegs in living groups did not include parties which had one-day Massachusetts liquor licenses.

In November 1990, for the first time, fraternities and other independent living groups had to register parties with MIT if they applied for Cambridge liquor licenses. Before that, no off-campus parties had to register with MIT.

Kirby said the alcohol-house tax issue first came into the public spotlight last year. This issue was "hot at the end of last year. The house tax was the most controversial issue, but we devoted very little of our time to it," Kirby said.

Two of the APC's 17 recommendations were quite controversial, and both were rejected in the end by the UA Council. One proposed that house taxes not be spent on alcohol at all. Because DormCon was not represented on the APC, many felt the committee had no right to direct the use of house tax when dormitory residents were not specifically represented. Instead, an amended version was passed which allowed each dormitory to decide if their house tax would be used to purchase alcohol.

The second rejected proposal recommended the creation of a Dean for Alcohol Education. These two points were not looked upon favorably by students. Some students charged that the committee's recommendations reflected concerns of the administration rather than students.