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Institute Releases New Alcohol Policy; Dean's Office Rejects DormCon Proposal

By Sarah Keightley
Associate News Editor
____This past year, the consideration of two separate alcohol policies -- the Dormitory Council's alcohol policy and the Institute's Policy Statement on the Use of Alcohol -- received much attention and criticism.

The Office of the Dean for Student Affairs required DormCon and the individual dormitories to submit their own versions of an alcohol policy by Oct. 31, 1991. Associate Dean of Student Affairs James R. Tewhey said in the spring he would take students' input into account, then rejected DormCon's proposal in November.

DormCon's policy focuses on the use of dormitory house taxes to purchase alcohol, an issue which affects the insurance liability of the Institute. The Institute's policy, on the other hand, summarizes state and local laws pertaining to alcohol and outlines the rules for all Institute events where alcohol will be served.

Under DormCon's October proposal, dormitories would be allowed to spend a percentage of house tax on alcohol equal to the percentage of residents over the age of 21.

This fall, Adam S. Lechner '92, Baker House treasurer, estimated that 17 percent of Baker's house tax was spent on alcohol. Of the $2900 Baker spent on alcohol last term, $1400 went towards the two cocktail parties Baker has for the faculty each term, he added.

Other dormitory treasurers calculated slightly lower amounts of spending on alcohol, ranging from 6 to 15 percent.

Despite assurances by Tewhey that he would take students' input into account, he rejected DormCon's proposed policy in early November, saying the percentage of house tax it allowed dormitories to spend on alcohol was unacceptably high.

Tewhey had other problems with the proposal. He said that the alcohol policy should work toward a mechanism to assure that no underage drinking takes place in dormitories.

Several dormitory housemasters agreed with Tewhey's rejection of DormCon's proposal, finding DormCon's proposed limit on the amount of house tax that could be used to purchase alcohol too high.

"In a group where everyone is above 21, no one would dream of spending 100 percent of an entertainment budget on alcohol. It's not quite appropriate," said Random Hall Housemaster Irwin A. Pless.

Members of DormCon sent a letter of complaint to Tewhey soon after he rejected their proposal. DormCon then came to an agreement with the ODSA to draft a list of objectives stating what they would like to see the alcohol policy accomplish. DormCon would then "see how much overlaps with the Dean's Office," said David W. Hogg '92, president of Senior House.

Hogg said one of DormCon's main objectives is to have a policy that discourages over-drinking. "We are much less concerned with underage drinking than responsible drinking."

MIT's policy changed little

The dean's office released the new Institute alcohol policy in October. Aside from two modifications, it is substantially unchanged from its predecessor.

Both the draft and final versions of the policy were written by Tewhey. These drafts were based in part on reactions by the administration, housemasters and the APC to earlier versions.

The Institute's policy now applies to the entire Institute community. Before, the InterFraternity Council regulated the alcohol policy in independent living groups. The policy requires ILGs to register parties with the IFC.

The other major change in the alcohol policy allows dormitories to serve alcohol without a cash bar, reflecting a change in administration thinking.

The final draft of the Policy Statement on the Use of Alcohol aroused criticism within the UA that student views were ignored in the final drafting process, said J. Paul Kirby '92, UA vice president. In particular, the decision to cut the proposal that closed events be registered with 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.

UA studies alcohol problem

Last spring, the UA Alcohol Policy Committee conducted a survey on registration day. Forty-three percent of the 305 respondents said they were against using dormitory funds for alcohol. Over half of the others who responded opposed spending a large proportion of house taxes on alcohol. The committee judged the poll's 15 percent response rate to be good.

The APC submitted its final report to the UA Council in May. Two of the 17 recommendations in the report were quite controversial and were eventually rejected by the UA Council. One rejected proposal recommended the creation of a Dean for Alcohol Education within the ODSA.

The other proposed that house taxes not be spent on alcohol at all. Because DormCon was not represented on the APC, many students felt the committee had no right to direct the use of house tax when dormitory residents were not specifically represented. The version of the APC proposal which was passed allowed each dormitory to decide if their house tax would be used to purchase alcohol.