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New Administrator, Lingering Problem

Over three years after an Institute working group on dangerous drinking recommended creating a dean to handle alcohol-related issues, MIT has announced the hiring of Daniel A. Trujillo as Dean for Alcohol Education and Community Development.

Trujillo’s experience as Alcohol Coordinator for the State University of New York will undoubtedly help him in his new role at MIT.

Although MIT has laid out guidelines for the position, Trujillo will need to inform students more specifically of the issues he plans to tackle and how he intends to coordinate with students and staff across campus. As he has already said, Trujillo can become acquainted with MIT most quickly and efficiently by seeking student input. However, simply seeking student input is not enough. Students need to know how Trujillo’s role affects their lives, so that they can go to him or another dean for help when appropriate. For issues such as alcohol or mental health emergencies, students should not be confused regarding where to turn. In order to be successful as a liaison between students, faculty, and staff, Trujillo must also work hard to incorporate student concerns into the Institute’s policies instead of simply enforcing faits accomplis handed down by members of the senior administration.

MIT should be commended for including “community development” in Trujillo’s title rather than focusing solely on alcohol issues. In recent months, mental health has become a far more pressing issue on campus than alcohol, and MIT was wise to consult a wide range of campus health officials in its selection process. MIT must ensure that Trujillo focuses an appropriate amount of time on the mental health and community development aspects of his position.

Nonetheless, MIT obviously intended for Trujillo to tackle alcohol-related issues. Most recently, these have centered on the relationship between fraternities and the licensing boards of Boston and Cambridge, as well as on anonymous medical transport. Trujillo must be prepared to work effectively with the boards, particularly with the Cambridge Licensing Commission. His responsibilities in this role are yet undefined; MIT must clearly set out how Trujillo will best serve the community in this regard.

From an administrative perspective, this move represents a distinct shift from the responsibilities originally allocated to Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict. The Office of the Dean for Student Life is responsible for matters which include alcohol education and community development. As such, Trujillo will report directly to Benedict. The creation of a new position is an indication that additional support is needed within these areas. However, it is important that Benedict also remain directly accessible to students.

Students should expect results from MIT’s creation of this new dean. With another, possibly more direct channel for alcohol and mental health-related issues, there should be a noticeable improvement in the quality of life on campus. While this change will certainly not happen overnight, MIT must insist on significant change directly attributable to Trujillo’s impact over the coming months and years.

MIT has undertaken many initiatives in the past four years that were intended to improve student health, but for the most part these have been reactionary measures. The Institute finally seems to be taking a proactive approach to student life by hiring a dedicated administrator to address these issues. The Tech hopes that the new Dean for Alcohol Education and Community Development will be a significant, positive step toward addressing the root causes of problems on campus.