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SafeRide Removes Signs About Alcohol Policy

By Tiffany Kosolcharoen

Signs informing students of the consequences of intoxication and vomiting on SafeRide have been removed from SafeRide buses.

The signs appeared on the night-time shuttle buses at the beginning of January and read, “Anyone who has been drinking alcohol and vomits in the bus will be taken to Medical and Campus Police will be notified.”

The posters were removed after The Tech asked SafeRide Operations Manager Lawrence R. Brutti for comment on the SafeRide alcohol policy.

Brutti responded to inquiries with a Jan. 22 e-mail stating that the posters had been removed.

“Since our new, larger buses were put into service, we experienced two occurrences of intoxicated students vomiting,” Brutti wrote. “The signs were posted by the drivers, who had to clean up the intoxicated students’ vomit, and were not official MIT signs.”

The posters raised concerns about medical confidentiality, a hot-button issue on campus.

“It was realized there was a need to review that practice [outlined in the posters], and we have to engage the student government in it,” said Director of Enterprise Services Stephen D. Immerman.

Medical confidentiality retained

The posters “were put up out of frustration, and the whole thing was just a misunderstanding,” Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict said. “I think MIT values medical confidentiality more than any school in the country. Student confidentiality is paramount.”

The drivers should now be following the normal procedure when a drunk student vomits on SafeRide.

The bus drivers “stop the bus, call Campus Police to take care of the student, and only alert MIT Medical if treatment is required,” Immerman said.

Benedict confirmed that students will not be taken to MIT Medical if treatment is not needed.

Campus Police “would be informed [if a drunk student vomited], but we would not press charges against the student,” Campus Police Captain David A. Carlson said. “The medical department follows up on any alcohol-related incident and may notify our officers, and I assume they would try talk to the person to understand what happened.”

Passengers affected by vomiting

“Other passengers are required to exit the vehicle and wait at the stop until an alternative vehicle is put into service or the bus is cleaned and returned to service,” Brutti said. “This process affects the entire shuttle schedule for a number of hours.”

Although she would feel slightly “disgusted” if a student vomited next to her on SafeRide, Lisa R. Messeri ’04 said, “Everyone deserves a ride home, especially in this cold weather. If [the students] are drunk, it is a good thing they are riding home and not walking on the streets.”

If he was forced off of SafeRide because of an intoxicated student, Vikash Gilja ’03 said, “I wouldn’t like it and I would be angry, but I would understand. After all, the purpose of SafeRide is to find a safe way to get students home.”

“The question is what responsibility we have, to balance the impact of the inconvenience of cleaning up the vomit and whether we want to see students walk home intoxicated,” Immerman said.

Seale says compromise needed

“I know it is not the administration trying to get students to the police,” said Undergraduate Association President Josiah D. Seale ’03. “There are many options besides calling the police that we can agree on, and students can craft the solutions.”

“What concerns me is that students throwing up in vans is irresponsible. It is one thing to make a mistake, but it is another thing to let others suffer the consequences,” Seale said.