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Baker Party Prompts Alcohol Policy Review

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Editor in CHief

Officials from the Dean's Office are investigating last weekend's alcohol-related incident at Baker House and considering what new measures if any should be taken as a result of the incident.

"Ihope that in a couple weeks, a couple of months, we can say the system worked"with this incident, said Dean ofStudents and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams.

The Dean's Office is currently investigating several individuals in connection with the incident, saidDean for Students Margaret R. Bates.

Those who "clearly have a role in planning"the event could potentially face disciplinary action, Williams said. Any action will be taken "quickly and fairly,"Williams added.

Any actions taken against students are protected under the federal Buckley Amendment, which prohibits the release of student records without consent.

Late Friday night, a 20-year-old Simmons College student was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital after attending a party at Baker, where she allegedly consumed alcohol.

No parties were registered at Baker House that night, said Kenneth D. Campbell, director of the news office.

Two parties were allegedly taking place that night, one on the third floor with around 300 participants, and one on the fourth floor with around 100 students, sources said.

Party size raises concerns

The third floor party in particular raises concerns, Williams said, because of its large size. "It's unusual for a party to get this large and not be sponsored by the dorm."

The investigating process itself has served to warn other residents, Williams said. "The steps that have been taken have very clearly put everyone in Baker on notice."

Williams said the investigation process that occurs within dormitories following incidents is similar to the investigation of suspended fraternities following alcohol incidents there. Fraternity suspension is generally used as a holding measure until investigations of incidents are complete, Williams said.

Because of the presence of Graduate Resident Tutors, Housemasters, and dormitory governments, dormitories do not ordinarily need to be suspended following incidents, Bates said.

Additionally, all of Baker's parties this year have been dry.

Policies may be modified

Williams said that the incident also raises general issues about medium-sized parties not sponsored by groups.

"The Baker incident does bring up the need to clarify public spaces in a house - how do you reserve them [and] register them"for events, Williams said.

Clarifications to the existing alcohol policy, which was implemented last spring, are also likely as a result of the incident. "There are many places where you can say this policy needs to be tightened, this line of responsibility needs to be clarified.'"

Williams said that the Baker House government was working on new procedures for reserving lounges and other public areas to ensure another incident does not occur again.

The third floor party was advertised on e-mail to the Baker house social mailing list as well as others.

"The e-mail [advertising the third floor party] makes it clear a lot of people were expected,"Williams said.

"Aparty on this scale certainly could be prevented,"Williams said.

"Once you use a generic e-mail list, you lose control"of the size of the party, Bates said. "If you were having a party with a few people, you wouldn't use a generic list."

"If you have more people than you can account for, then you cross the limits of personal responsibility,"Bates said.

In the future, the role of the house government in overseeing events will be further clarified, Williams said.

"One of the issues that has to be worked out is what is a public party and what is a private party,"said Baker Housemaster William Watson. "We need to know if you have five of your buddies sitting in the lounge and you're all 21 and having a drink if that is something you have to register and something you don't have to register."

Because of the different architecture of different dormitories, each dorm will have to work on its own clarifications on issues such as these, Watson said.

Deans will not go actively searching for and shutting down non-registered parties, Williams said. "Iam worried about a degree of interference in student life that would be inappropriate."

"Students don't need us to do their filtering for them,"she added, noting that the clarified alcohol policies should serve as a deterrent.

Stonger penalties advocated

While the Dean's Office works to clarify the policies set in place last March, one staff member is questioning the leniency of the current policies.

"If we wish to solve this problem, we must bring in the heavy artillery of suspension of those who violate the alcohol laws,"said Lecturer Bruce D. Wedlock '56 in an e-mail message to the Alumni Interfraternity Council.

"Campus police could have had those present do the breath test, and underage MIT students blowing more than .02 suspended,"Wedlock said. "The time for leniency is past."

Wedlock could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Under the current citations policy, first violations are punished by education programs and community service; later violations hold increasing punishments.

However, "that citation policy is a floor, not a ceiling,"Williams said. "If you have injured something or gotten into a fight, you're into the disciplinary system"where punishments can be as serious as expulsion.

"I'd rather work with what is in place and try to administer it as seriously and as fairly as we can,"Williams said.