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Colleges Collaborate on Alcohol Abuse

By Nathan Collins

EXECUTIVE EDITOR

MIT recently signed an agreement to work to address alcohol abuse in collaboration with 47 other Massachusetts colleges and universities, but the agreement serves merely for guidance and does not bind MIT to any action.

The Massachusetts Statewide College and University Coalition on Underage and Problem Drinking “will use the Action Plan developed by its members as a guideline,” and “commit to address issues of alcohol abuse,” according to the agreement, called the “Commitment to Collaboration.”

Member schools will also “explore prevention steps appropriate for each campus” and share successful strategies.

Agreement non-binding

Massachusetts schools are “committing to work together,” said Daniel Trujillo, associate dean for alcohol education and community development, but they are not bound to the Action Plan. However, Trujillo said the plan has “promising strategies.”

MIT has already implemented programs similar to those suggested by the Action Plan, including alcohol training for graduate resident tutors and a student advisory board, Trujillo said.

The original intention was for schools to commit to the Action Plan, but MIT had concerns about “committing without student support,” Trujillo said. Other schools had expressed similar concerns, he said.

Trujillo said that MIT also didn’t want to sign up “for a cook-book approach” that did not necessarily address MIT-specific concerns.

Substance-free housing disputed

Dormitory Council Vice President Tyler J. Bronder ’03 said he was concerned about substance-free housing, a provision of the Action Plan that asks colleges to provide “substance-free or wellness housing” to students who request it.

Bronder said that divisions between substance-free and other areas could “start to really separate themselves” from each other. “I think the last thing anybody wants is for a freshman to pick a room solely because it’s in a ‘non-substance-free’ area,” he said.

DormCon President Grace R. Kessenich ’04 said that Trujillo was coming to the next meeting on Dec. 5 to discuss the agreement. DormCon members were concerned with the provision for substance-free housing, which was inaccurately reported in The Boston Globe.

FSILGs already taking action

Mira E. Wilczek ’04, Interfraternity Council external relations chair, said that IFC conducts its own training programs and has worked to improve its alcohol responsibility. “The IFC has taken many steps to ensure that alcohol is being used responsibly,” she said. “We’ve definitely taken great strides.”

In addition to MIT-based programs, MIT has worked with the Cambridge License Commission and Harvard University, Trujillo said.

Wilczek said the collaboration recently led to an alcohol-free show at the House of Blues.

Plan calls for state assistance

The Action Plan, which comprises nearly 40 specific policies, covers alcohol training, administration and campus police involvement, orientation, housing, athletics, and numerous other topics. The plan calls for an advisory board to “identify strategies, programs, and events that foster prevention of alcohol abuse and the development of a positive, pro-active campus culture.”

An important part of the plan is the provision of technical assistance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Trujillo said.

The Action Plan calls for the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Health to “provide technical assistance as appropriate.”

According to an August 2002 draft of the Action Plan, participating schools may also “participate in an anonymous standard assessment” program and meet to discuss the program’s progress.

The Commitment to Collaboration stems from meetings last Spring with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Attorney General’s Office in which the Action Plan first took shape, Trujillo said.