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A Twelve Step Program For MIT

Wesley T. Chan

President Charles M. Vest and Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams announced Wednesday that MIT has changed its attitude on alcohol, no doubt directly in reaction to the tragic alcohol-induced death of Scott S. Krueger '01.

Gone are the freewheeling days when Institute funds - including our dormitory tax dollars - could be spent on alcohol for MIT events. Vest also announced that the Institute will begin building new undergraduate dormitories at full speed, a change that will lead to, as Williams wrote in a letter to all undergraduate students, "significant alterations in our residence selection process and orientation activities."

Students' experiences at MIT are about to change drastically. First and foremost, MIT is about to embark on a plan to build new dormitories to accommodate freshmen that MIT couldn't handle before because of the Institute's notorious campus housing shortage. This plan will, according to Williams, "lead to fundamental changes in the freshman living experience," doubtless part of the Institute's plan to lessen its dependence on the fraternity system for housing students. Residence and Orientation Week also will likely change as new dormitories open within the Institute's goal of three to four years.

Furthermore, the way dormitories spend their house tax dollars will also change. With Vest's prohibition on using Institute funds to buy alcohol for events where students under 21 years old will be present, dormitories will no longer be able to continue their practice of subsidizing alcohol at parties and other events with residents' tax dollars. While the prohibition may not make dormitories totally dry in reality, it represents step in the right direction toward restricting the vast flow of alcohol at MIT.

It has not, however, escaped my notice that it took the death of Krueger and the resulting extensive media scrutiny for the Institute to revise its attitudes on the rampant alcohol consumption by students that plagues this campus. As Vest noted in a news conference Wednesday, 75 percent of MIT students drink and a whopping 25 percent subset binge drink.

Although Vest pointed out that this problem exists at virtually any college campus, the important thing is that it exists at MIT and that it has existed at MIT for quite a long time, long before Krueger first set foot on this campus. But as with too many things at MIT and in the world, it takes something tragic before anyone decides to do something. In a sense, we're all to blame for being absorbed too much in our problem sets and too bound to tradition to ignore this problem. It should not have taken such a tragic incident to wake us all up.

Now everything is on the table, as Vest himself put it. The administration finally has admitted that its previous attitude toward alcohol was inadequate. The Institute will make many more decisions about its policies on alcohol that will no doubt significantly impact all our lives. A plethora of meetings have been scheduled and many of them are just beginning. These meetings will most likely culminate in lifestyle-changing policies that will affect all of us.

The circumstances surrounding Krueger's death were tragic, but the resulting changes that have occurred thus far as a direct result of his death are far from tragic. As both dorms and independent living groups voluntarily go dry for the next couple of weeks and beyond in order to mourn the loss of Krueger and to reflect on what went wrong at Phi Gamma Delta, the MIT community will begin the difficult process of coming to terms with its alcohol consumption problem.

We are already witnessing the first leg in what will be a long journey toward curbing the drinking problem we now all admit exists at MIT. Hopefully, Krueger's death will not be meaningless, and we will find some solutions to a problem that has plagued our campus for far too long.