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Medical Transport Part of Debate on Alcohol Policy

By Melissa Cain


"Confidential emergency medical transport" is a catch-phrase currently looming over the MIT campus. This issue has recently become more visible because of a UA petition in support of this policy; however, students and administrators do not necessarily agree on how this policy should be carried out.

MIT has a history of controversy over policies regarding alcohol, and confidential emergency medical transport is just one more topic in a history of disagreements between the students and the administration.

Current MIT alcohol policy

The current alcohol policy at MIT penalizes students if they are under "1 and consume alcohol, serve alcohol to an underage person, or do not follow the proper procedures for registering parties with alcohol.

The penalties for violations are separated into two categories: Category I is consumption or possession by a person under "1 years of age. Category II is providing alcohol to a person under "1 years of age.

At MIT, if someone is intoxicated and they need medical help, the MIT campus police acting as emergency medical technicians are called in to transport the victim to MIT Medical.

Initially, the police's purpose is to act only as emergency medical technicians. Their primary concern is the students' safety. However, after the student is taken care of, the police revert back to their role as law enforcers and file a report with the name of the person and the specifics of the incident

The police then perform an investigation, and if any laws were broken, they may hand out citations to people involved in the case and inform the Dean's Office of the citations. The violations are then examined by the Dean's Office and, if necessary, the student's case is reviewed by the Committee on Discipline to determine punishment.

The parents of the violator are not notified, unless the penalty involves the parents in some way, such as monetary penalties.

However, MIT Medical itself is completely confidential. They do not offer any information about the victim to any outside parties including the Dean's office and the CPs.

As Associate Medical Director William M. Kettyle said, "We [MIT Medical] would not report intoxication." Thus, a student brought directly to MIT Medical without CP intervention would face no sanctions.

Peers face similar problems

MIT's policy is not totally unique. A few area colleges, including Harvard, Wellesley, and Boston University, have policies similar to MIT's, but the procedures they use to enforce the policies are somewhat different.

All of the policies follow Massachusetts state law, but procedures involving punishment especially in emergency medical situations differ a great deal.

Wellesley has a new alcohol policy that states that a student seeking medical treatment for an alcohol or other drug-related overdose will not be subject to discipline.

At Wellesley, like at MIT, the campus police act as the emergency medical transport, but the incident is just reported as "medical transport," so the victim's name is not used and neither is the type of incident.

Lauren A. Cadish, a Resident Advisor for Freeman Hall at Wellesley and a member of the General Judiciary Committee said, "[The policy] clearly puts the safety of the students first rather than punitive action." Harvard has a similar system that is confidential and does not punish students.

Boston University, on the other hand, does not really have an internal system of emergency medical transport. At BU, when a call is made for an intoxicated person, the college will call the student a cab or an ambulance to be transported to the nearest hospital.

The student is then penalized by the Massachusetts Police Department as well as by BU Police. "We will hold them accountable," said Herb Ross, the associate dean of students. Any student that was involved or knew about the victim's condition and did not act on their behalf is also held accountable.

Everyone involved receives an alcohol assessment, and parents are notified in all situations involving discipline.

Each institution has a policy that they feel fits the social climate of their campus; however many community members feel MIT has missed this important point.

Ideally, new EMT transport policies will be aimed at looking towards student's needs and choosing a policy that fits the campus as opposed to trying to make the campus fit the policy.

One of the main instigators of change is MIT Medical. They are committed to changing the current system so that students are not afraid to call for help. Mark Goldstein, chief of student health at MIT Medical, said, "I would love to see the students come here without penalty."

Alcohol bans began in the mid-80s

In 1985 the legal drinking age in Massachusetts was raised to "1. At that time, the Dean of Student Affairs Shirley M. McBay released the Policy Statement on the Use of Alcohol.

The policy stated that only people of legal age could drink and that because almost all freshmen would not be of age, Residence/Orientation would be dry except for Saturday and Sunday nights.

The procedures for enforcement were vague and the penalties were minimal, but the proposal that any part of rush would be dry caused an uproar among the students who thought it was unfair and that it would not give freshmen an accurate picture of FSILG life.

This policy remained in place and unchanged until 1990 when kegs were banned from all living groups. The Boston Licensing Board passed a regulation limiting the amount of alcohol students could bring into dormitories or living groups to the amount they could consume themselves. The Cambridge License Commission was in support of a similar policy.

The revision of the Policy Statement on the Use of Alcohol in 199" showed the contrast between the students9 and the administration9s view of alcohol regulation.

The Dormitory Council submitted their recommended version of the alcohol policy to the Associate Dean of Student Affairs at the time, James R. Tewhey. Their proposal suggested allowing dormitories to spend a portion of the house tax on alcohol, relative to the number of residents of legal drinking age.

However, Tewhey ended up rejecting Dormcon9s proposal in favor of a more modest change in policy allowing dormitories to serve alcohol without a cash bar.

Krueger9s death spurs change

After the death of Scott S. Krueger 901 in 1997, MIT formed the Working Group of Dangerous Drinking to again review its policies and procedures regarding alcohol.

The Working Group made a number of recommendations about changes they believed would reduce the amount of dangerous drinking on campus, and the administration made several decisions in response to the working group9s recommendations.

These decisions include the requirement that freshmen live on campus by "00", that FSILGs have resident advisors, and that FSILGs that wish to serve alcohol complete educational programs on the issues surrounding dangerous drinking.

In addition, the position of Dean for Student Life was created, and funding for Institute-wide events was tripled.

All events with alcohol must be registered, and restrictions were put on the number of people being served as well as serving and distribution of alcoholic beverages. MIT also set up a new system of progressive sanctions on alcohol violations, as did the Interfraternity Council.

Students9 relationship with CPs

One of the major changes that occurred as a result of more strict alcohol policies was the relationship between the students and the campus police.

Prior to the administration9s crackdown on student drinking, the campus police and the students worked together to prevent dangerous situations. Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin said, "The police generally had a good relationship with the student body."

When the administration9s policies became more strict, due to the media and outside pressures, the campus police were charged with upholding the new policies under strict guidelines.

In recent years, there has been a strain put on CP-student relationships especially with the new policy of sanctioning.

"Some bumps here and there have caused tension," said Glavin, specifically citing the campus police9s enforcement of the early closing times for parties.

Many students are worried about the repercussions of the new policies. There has been "deliberate vigilance [on the part of the CPs]," said Glavin, "which has been perceived by students as a crackdown in enforcement."

The CPs are currently trying to improve student relations through programs like "Pizza and Conversation with Campus Police" where students talk to CPs informally over dinner.

Mike Hall contributed to the reporting of this story.