The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 58.0°F | Light Rain

New Alcohol Policy Tested by Violations


Ying Lee--The Tech
The MIT Faculty Club was the site of a controversial Valentine's day party.

By Frank Dabek and Dan McGuire
Staff Reporters

The ink on their pages barely dry, the Institute's new alcohol policies are already receiving their first tests. Events at licensed venues and minor incidents in dormitories are providing the first tests for the new individual and group alcohol policies and are raised questions about the current state of the policies.

An event held by Aramark on Valentine's Day is providing a difficult test case for the Institute's infant alcohol policy. The event, advertised in The Tech as a "champagne reception" was open to both faculty and to students and was held at the MIT Faculty Club. Several aspects of the event seem questionable under current MIT alcohol policy especially the presence of undergraduates at an event where alcohol may have been freely available.

Lawrence E. Maguire, director of housing and food services, said that "Aramark had all the permits and forms MIT requires for the event." He that, to the best of his knowledge, those operating the event "carded, [and] did everything by the book." Maguire is responsible for Aramark's operations on campus. "Clearly someone was checking IDs," at the event, said Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates.

"There were concerns about the champagne fountain" present at the party, she said. However, "it was in the line of sight of the bartender," which allowed some control, she said.

An undergraduate present at the event, however, said that his age was not verified when obtaining alcohol and that the champagne fountain was left unattended. The student said that the bartender might not have been able to see the fountain.

Rules for licensed vendors differ

Because the MIT Faculty club is a licensed provider, much like the Thirsty Ear pub or the Muddy Charles, the event "didn't need to be registered, " said Philip J. Walsh, director of the campus activities complex. Walsh emphasized that the event was still bound to operate under City of Cambridge laws, however, which prohibit the sale of alcohol to minors.

While Bates agreed that the faculty club "didn't have to go through the student registration process," she said that the people who held the event needed to have "enhanced sensitivity at this point." People planning parties need to consider the "implications of having students at [their] events," she said.

Bates said that she hoped awareness would be raised by the event. "What I'm mostly concerned about is that people are aware of the concerns and are taking steps one of the things that we hoped would happen this spring." "Fortunately [this event] was not very serious," she added.

Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams also expressed concern over the incident. Williams took issue with the reference to alcohol in the event's advertisement, which was widely available to undergraduates. This "indeed fell between the cracks," but those responsible for the ad have been contacted and have apologized, she said.

The event was "directed towards faculty and not students," Williams said. "I'm surprised that undergraduates were there," she said.

Williams said that this type of event, where members of the student body and faculty are present, will be problematic under the new alcohol policy. "I think this is exactly the type of area where it is going to be difficult to deal with the new alcohol policy," she said.

Dormitories also site of incidents

Dormitories have also seen several minor incidents involving alcohol. On the evening of Feb. 13 campus police responded to a report that underage students in an East Campus lounge in the Hayden entryway were drinking. The responding officer found a "gathering of about 16 students" who were holding a birthday party, said Capt. David A. Carlson of the Campus Police

Carlson said that the event was controlled and that there was food and soda available for those under 21. He said that minors were not drinking at the event. "The people consuming the alcohol were over 21. There were some people under 21 around but they did not not appear to be drinking," he said. "If we believe the underage students are drinking we take a different action." The campus police took down the names of people in attendance.

A similar incident occurred a day later in MacGregor House. Police went into to the dormitory after receiving a complaint of excessive noise and drinking at party at 6 a.m. the morning of Feb. 14. Everyone at the party was over the age of 21, Carlson. "In this particular case the housemaster was called because the people weren't particularly" cooperative, he said.

Carlson said that beyond these incidents, very little has happened. "For the most part it's been pretty low key," he said.

Drawing the line

Under MIT's current alcohol policy, any event with alcohol must be registered with the Office for Residence and Campus Activities. Minors cannot be present at an event where alcohol is being served. However, the current alcohol policy does allow people over 21 to drink on their own and in their rooms.

The events of the past week blur the line between event and individual party. If a party takes place in "someone's room that would be a private party," said Assistant Dean of Residence and Campus Activities Katherine G. O'Dair. If private events with alcohol move to a lounge, "that's potentially problematic," said O'Dair. "When you're moving into an open space you leave yourself open to scrutiny," she said.

"We have procedures for large events and individual events," said Bates. However, "this is one of the discussions that need to be resolved: when [an event] moves from an individual action to a large action," Bates said.

When events take place in "licensed facilities" such as the faculty club, further problems ensue. Facilities such as these seem to be able to bypass usual registrations procedures that have prevented most student groups from holding events where alcohol will be present.

Bates said that there were plans to solidify the policy by April and bring it before the Academic Council. Bates said that she planned to have a town meeting and hoped to get together student leaders to get suggestions on a policy. In the mean time, she said that problems will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Bates, who is responsible for enforcing the current alcohol policy, said that she had not seen information on the East Campus and MacGregor parties.