Empty Alcohol Policy
Earlier this week, the administration congratulated itself through a Tech Talk article which said that a dialogue between students and administrators has led to a return in normal campus affairs through the new alcohol policies.
We do not believe that the time for congratulation has arrived because, in fact, a dialogue has not yet occurred. The administration has made an effort to educate students about the current alcohol policy through open houses and question and answer sessions, but an information session can never replace substantive conversation. To hold an authentic dialogue with the entire MIT community, administrators need to solicit input on what the policies should be. They have not done this. Instead, students have asked questions and administrators have answered them. While this process has led to some changes in the alcohol policy, students have played no role in the decision-making process.
The Dean's Office has done little to encourage discussion. Over the past few months, there have not been publicized meetings to solicit input on the interim alcohol policy, implemented in January. For effective dialogue to occur, the Dean's Office must extensively publicize meetings between students and administrators and actually take student input into account when making policies. Without visible progress on alcohol policies, students will not have any reason to attend open meetings.
Deans must also consider the way in which they hold meetings. To date, the forums have been at best sparsely attended. Members of the Dean's Office need to make a significant effort to understand, and participate in, student life.
Other recent groups have achieved success in contacting a large percentage of the student body. The Dining Review Working Group visited every dormitory and several fraternities last year, gaining valuable input by visiting students where it matters most - in their living group. Members of the group working on alcohol policy could gain far more valuable input from a better cross-section of the Institute by moving their meetings to dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. When the meetings are close to where they live, students will attend them more often .
Moreover, members of the group need to understand better the undergraduate experience in general. The article notes the return of alcohol to campus and says that student life has been improving over the past few months. Yet the new alcohol policy has made it more difficult to hold events, both with and without alcohol, and no other substantive steps have been taken to improve the campus social life. The administration's claim sounds like nothing but self-promotion.
The Techhas consistently said that there are important alcohol-related issues that need to be dealt with in the coming months. The confidentiality of medical transports, the vague punishment guidelines for alcohol offenses, and the need for more on-campus events all require frank discussion between students and administrators. The discussion is not yet over, and we are disappointed that the Dean's Office has decided to congratulate itself on the progress of the dialogue. This is just rhetoric: true dialogue requires that parties come to the table with open minds and prepared to make concessions. The Dean's Office needs to stop making unilateral statements of policy and start discussing these issues with students, so that campus life in general can improve.