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Pilot Alcohol Policy to Offer Exceptions

By Dan McGuire
Executive Editor

MIT is preparing to replace its interim alcohol policy with a set of pilot programs which may provide special exceptions for alcohol events where underage students are present.

"We have always said that we expect MIT students to uphold Massachusetts law" which prohibits the consumption of alcohol by those under 21 years of age, said Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates. That expectation will not change with the new regulations, she said.

The current interim policy bans the expenditure of Institute funds on alcohol at events where people under the age of 21 may be present.

However, while discussions are not yet complete, there are indications that this policy may be waived in the future, under special circumstances. One current proposal would allow large events to have a cash bar as long as it was run by an outside vendor.

Such events will probably be "extremely unusual," Bates said. Approval from senior officials will be required for such events. "It won't be common practice."

Policies developed by the three-member ad-hoc committee led by Associate Provost Phillip L. Clay are considered part of the interim ban and will likely be part of the pilot policies, Bates said.

The committee said that the definition of "Institute funds" would include not only money held in MIT accounts but would also money held by residence halls, fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups.

The objective at the moment is to "get something in place that [people] can try on for size when [they] get back We can start conversations, but you don't want to set [policies] in stone right now," Bates said.

Policies to develop through term

"It's not the working assumption that you have a dry campus," Bates said, but it is important that MIT establish "lines of authority" and figure out who is responsible for making sure that MIT students drink legally and responsibly. "When Institute funds get involved that muddies the waters," she said.

As part of that process, MIT is revising its policy-making and disciplinary processes. Right now, the Institute tends to "put emphasis on the [actions of the] individual," Bates said. That emphasis may shift to include larger groups and include the "obligations of people on that hall [and the] responsibilities of graduate residence tutors and housemasters," she said.

In addition, MIT will begin to develop guidelines for alcohol waivers. Thus far, the Institute has been judging waivers on a case-by-case basis, a system which would prove increasingly difficult to maintain as time progressed. "We can only work on a case-by-case basis for so long" before getting buried, said Assistant Dean Katherine G. O'Dair.

Thus far, there have been only two waivers of the interim policy for student groups, O'Dair said. The first was to the Lebanese club, which held an event in Walker Memorial. Only people over 21 were allowed into the event and a third party served drinks at a cash bar.

The second waiver was granted to the Japanese Association, which received permission to hold a ceremonial toast using sake.