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CLC Overreaches in Next House Case

The bickering between MIT and the Cambridge License Commission reached a new level last week, as Next House was called before the board to plead its case after an isolated drinking incident last summer. While well-intentioned, the CLC’s drive to control underage drinking disturbingly resembles an effort to control social life at the Institute.

That Next House had to appear before the CLC at all is hard to understand, as Next House is the least to blame for the incident. According to incident reports, the victim, an underage female, did most of her heavy drinking at a friend’s Boston apartment and only had a couple of drinks at Next House. After the victim fell ill, caregivers made the responsible choice to call for medical assistance. The Tech is curious as to why, of all cases, the CLC chose this isolated, responsibly handled incident as a example of underage drinking run wild.

The CLC’s overreaction also sets a dangerous precedent against caregivers seeking medical assistance for their intoxicated friends. When a partygoer has too much to drink, the most responsible choice their friends can make is to seek immediate medical attention. By attacking the responsible caregivers who call for help, however, the CLC does nothing more than encourage irresponsiblity. What will the board say in the future if an MIT student dies from alcohol poisoning simply because their friends feared eviction from their house?

Of even greater concern is the CLC’s attack on the function of graduate resident tutors in MIT dormitories. To better recognize potential problems on their halls, GRTs at MIT are encouraged to befriend and socialize with students, who then feel more comfortable coming to them with concerns. Part of the GRTs’ appeal is that they have neither the power nor the charge to punish students for their transgressions, thus making them better confidants for students in need of attention.

At the hearing, CLC member and acting Cambridge Fire Chief Gerald R. Reardon criticized MIT for not making GRTs responsible for enforcing alcohol regulations. Reardon’s criticism demonstrates the CLC’s misunderstanding of the GRT’s role. The CLC wants to make GRTs into policemen. However, students are unlikely to confide in someone who has a duty to rat them out, leaving the troubled and confused with no safe outlet for their concerns.

In an effort to appease the CLC, Next House representatives proposed a series of new initiatives, ostensibly designed to control underage drinking. The new policies, presented at the hearing by Next House President Jay R. Mitchell ’02, include mandatory student patrolling of all gatherings with alcohol present and an arbitrary fine for any floor on which an individual commits an alcohol violation.

These proposals are as absurd as the hearing that prompted them in the first place. They fail to recognize that dorm residents, unlike FSILG members, do not necessarily choose to associate with their housemates and therefore have no responsibility for them or to them.

No dorm resident should be unwillingly drafted into undergoing alcohol safety training. Penalizing an entire wing for the actions of one rowdy resident is unfair, especially when GRTs and housemasters have little leverage in evicting trouble students from a hall or dorm. Peer pressure in the form of withheld funds cannot be mandated upon residents that didn’t agree to it in the first place.

Larry G. Benedict, MIT’s new dean for student life, endorsed Next House’s proposals last week and said that he would explore them further as the Institute reviews its alcohol policies in the coming year. The Tech urges him not to expand these flawed policies to other residence halls. Next House designed its proposals to pacify the CLC and to prevent yet another overreaction. Rather than comply with the CLC’s demands, Benedict and MIT should stand tall in the face of a overzealous government.