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Preventing Dangerous Drinking

Guest Column
Allison L. Neizmik, Rory P. Pheiffer, and Josiah D. Seale

For the past several months, the UA and IFC have been working in conjunction with MIT administrators and staff towards a viable solution to the problem of dangerous drinking at MIT. Two priorities seem to come into conflict: (1) Removing any reason for hesitation in calling for help when a friend needs medical attention, and (2) Ensuring that students who drink dangerously receive the proper care, both medical and educational, following one or more incidents.

The necessity of meeting two simultaneous goals leads to the conclusion that the best solution to our current plight is not Anonymous Medical Transport, oft cited as an attempt to escape responsibility, but rather Confidential Medical Transport (CMT). Students who demonstrate an inability to stop drinking, thus endangering their own well-being, must receive the medical attention needed to treat this problem. National statistics indicate that 10 to 15 percent of the population will suffer a problem with alcohol abuse at some point. It is this group that we cannot allow to fall through the cracks of our system.

As the UA and IFC representatives to MIT’s Alcohol Education Work Group, we were concerned by the conclusions drawn in a recent Tech opinion column [“AMT -- A License to Drink,” Feb. 9] MIT’s alcohol policy is a serious matter, with much potential impact on students’ lives. The final outcome must address all issues, to best preserve and ensure student health and safety.

In advocating Confidential Medical Transport, we are not advocating a “Get Out of Drunkenness Free” card, because student health is nothing to be played with. In a system where CMT is used, a student’s information both during and after an incident would be kept strictly confidential within the medical department of MIT. With Confidential Medical Transport, the barrier too often present in deciding whether or not to call for help would be removed, as CMT eliminates the fear of getting an individual, or living group for that matter, in trouble. Instead it allows for a case to be handled on a strictly medical basis. Those who use CMT on more than one occasion can be evaluated medically but without danger of permanently ruining their transcripts, records, or career at MIT. Allowing confidential medical follow-up thus ensures that the second goal is met, getting students the proper care both during and after incidents.

It is this type of system that we as UA and IFC representatives to MIT’s Alcohol Education Work Group see as the best solution under the current system. The addition of a new Associate Dean for Alcohol Education and Community Development, charged with overseeing all aspects of alcohol education and policy at the Institute, will aid in bringing about the changes necessary to ensure greater health and safety for MIT students. However, a solution that is to the full satisfaction of all involved is still some distance away. In the meantime, the UA and the IFC will continue to advocate for students on these issues.

Allison L. Neizmik is the Chair of the UA Public Relations Committee. Rory P. Pheiffer is President of the IFC. Josiah D. Seale is Co-Chair of the UA Committee on Student Life.