CLC Hears Proposal From Next
Policies Aim to Stop Underage DrinkingBy Mike Hall and Lara Davenport
At a hearing before the Cambridge Licensing Commission, Next House proposed new internal policies to curb underage drinking.
Following a June incident in which an intoxicated, underage female was hospitalized after attending a Next House room party, the CLC ordered this hearing to review Next House’s lodging license. According to an internal MIT report, the female was already drunk when she arrived at Next House.
The CLC will decide whether or not to punish Next House at a September 28 decision hearing. However, Next house will likely receive little or no punishment, given its efforts to address the alcohol problem and the precedent in other MIT cases before the commission.
Plan emphasizes peer pressure
Under the plan presented by Next House President Jay R. Mitchell ’02, the Next House government would revoke one-third of a wing’s social funds for every alcohol violation committed on that wing.
Edward J. Ouellette G, the Graduate Resident Tutor of the wing cited in the incident, said that the intent of the proposal was to encourage responsible alcohol use among all residents by sanctioning an entire wing instead of an individual student.
“One of the big problems is that in cases like these, students stand up for each other,” Ouellette said. “We think this might add some peer pressure.”
In addition, the plan requires one resident over 21 years old on each wing to undergo Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) alcohol safety training and to patrol all gatherings where alcohol is available. Incoming freshmen would also be required to attend alcohol awareness education at a series of study breaks.
Currently, risk managers and alcohol servers at fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups are required to complete TIPS training, and two-thirds of each house must complete an Interfraternity Council alcohol education program.
At the hearing, Mitchell said that the proposed changes by the Next House Executive Committee would address the alcohol problem early by using peer pressure to encourage incoming freshmen unfamiliar with alcohol not to drink excessively.
Mitchell added that the funds used to educate residents would come from the dean’s office instead of from house funds. Volunteers may be offered some incentive or payment to enter the training program.
Following the hearing, Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict said that he supports Next House’s proposal and would like to explore expanding portions of the plan Institute-wide.
The administration wants “consistency across the institution in respect to alcohol regulations,” Benedict added.
CLC questions plan’s effectiveness
While supportive of the intent behind Next House’s proposal, the CLC criticized MIT for not granting GRTs enough authority to stop underage drinking.
Ouellette said at the hearing that MIT has given him very little power to stop underage drinking. On the night of the incident, he could not card students or enter their rooms to check for violations.
Like other universities, MIT allows its GRTs to stop disturbances within their halls or their dorms. However, MIT does not allow them to issue citations for alcohol violations, and GRTs cannot enter a resident’s room to stop illegal activity such as underage drinking without the resident’s permission.
In the event of an incident, the GRT must rely on assistance from the housemaster, the Institute, and the Campus Police.
“My main responsibility is to pull the [rule breaker] away and talk to them,” Ouellette said. “The resident advisors at MIT aren’t policemen.”
CLC member and acting Cambridge Fire Chief Gerald R. Reardon criticized MIT for not making GRTs responsible for enforcing alcohol regulations. During his questioning of Ouellette, Reardon asserted that the GRTs had no authority to control alcohol use under MIT rules, leaving them “off the hook” in many cases of abuse.
“It doesn’t sound like there’s much enforcement here,” Reardon said.
While recognizing the advantage of increased authority for GRTs, Ouellette said after the hearing that more authority would damage relations between students and tutors.
GRTs “are friends, are role models ... [but] not police,” he said. “I think that [more authority] would break down trust. I’ve talked to a lot of students who said that it would.”
Mitchell defended Ouellette and other GRTs, saying that enforcement at the dormitory level rests with the Dean’s Office and not the individual dorm. He also said that the position of elected student officers at Next House is not to enforce policies but to “provide alternatives.”
While Reardon attacked MIT’s limited enforcement, CLC Chairman Benjamin C. Barnes criticized Next House’s reliance on peer pressure as a deterrent to underage drinking. After Mitchell discussed Next House’s plan to penalize an entire wing for an alcohol violation, Barnes asked, “Why not [give a] higher tax to problem individuals?”
Barnes also chastised the house for relying on TIPS training for its supervisors. “TIPS is for individual people selling alcohol,” he said. “I don’t know how that fits into [the plan].” He encouraged the house to participate in a City of Cambridge program to limit alcohol abuse by promoting individual responsibility.