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Is There a Party In the House?

Larry G. Benedict

I am a member of Academic Council. The AC is composed of the president, vice presidents, deans, and other senior administrative officers on campus. It is the ultimate body that endorses policies and procedures at MIT

Over the past few months, a party registration form came across my desk for my signature from a housemaster who was hosting an event for some people who had been especially helpful to that residence hall. It included a wine and cheese reception -- no one under 21. Another form was from a coach who was hosting an annual event for the team’s alumni, beer and wine to be offered. The third was from a group of retirees who were having their meeting in the Student Center and alcohol was to be served. Most recently, a staff member came to me planning a wedding on campus, and she too required my signature on the party registration form.

One of the duties that we deans have as members of AC is to authorize parties with alcohol for folks like the deans, housemasters, coaches, and groups using space within MIT. Wherever alcohol is involved, whether Institute funds are used or not, the party needs to be registered. Why, you might well ask?

I think that many residence hall students believe that party registration is a bureaucratic invention to spy on them, list them in some secret database for future entrapment of some kind, give them a police record, and in general, repress parties at MIT.

Not so. Registration procedures have been in place for a number of reasons. First, registration insures that a party is well planned, that procedures are in place to protect both the party host as well as the attendees, and that the party is officially recognized and supported by MIT. Second, it insures that someone is accountable for the party, for monitoring it, and for insuring that attendees are safe. Many people often don’t realize that they assume risk when hosting a party -- whether or not they register it. By registering a party, one greatly reduces one’s own risk and the risk to the attendees because inherent in the registration of parties is an educational process whereby those who host events follow procedures that enhance the likelihood of a safe event. Event registration also ensures that the proper people are aware that an event is taking place so that if an issue does arise, there are appropriate support systems in place to address the concern

Over the past few weeks I have been asked a number of other questions about event registration and so I turned to my staff for their help in answering them. Here are a few:

Will campus police have me on file? Will they raid my party?

The CPs will have a registration form on file, which will help them know if a party is legit or not. The CPs do not usually come to a party unannounced -- they are usually called by a resident with a complaint. If it is a large event, with over a 100 or so attendees, they may assign a detail officer.

However, if the CPs do get called for a noise complaint and the party is registered, they will most likely check the registration and ask the host to turn the music down. If the party is not registered, they will shut the party down, take the name(s) of the host, and send the report to the dean’s office for disciplinary procedures.

Will I be brought before a discipline panel if my party is shut down?

We rarely see any cases in the discipline system where a student who registered a party is brought up on discipline charges. We do, however, see a lot of discipline cases for unregistered parties.

Will Student Life Programs staff spy on me?

On the contrary, when a student registers the event with SLP, that student is agreeing to a set of procedures that allows the staff -- Nightwatch, GRTs, housemasters -- to know that the party is well planned and that there is a host who has read and understands the procedures that should be followed.

What is MIT’s philosophy on alcohol monitoring?

Policies, procedures, programs, services, interventions, and responses associated with alcohol or other drug related issues were developed based on the following values:

* MIT’s overall concern with the well-being and safety of our students and community members.

* MIT’s respect for the rights of the individual and the rights of the community.

These principles are the foundation of the comprehensive and integrated effort to enhance student learning and development. MIT considers prevention and early intervention as the most effective means to promote informed, responsible decision-making and addresses the academic, social, legal, and personal consequences that are often associated with alcohol abuse and other drug use.

Left unaddressed, incidents involving student intoxication create a campus climate where others may feel that the Institute is not concerned about their well-being and condones inappropriate behaviors by this failure to respond. MIT believes the most effective means of addressing potential alcohol problems is through prevention and early intervention.

It is so bureaucratic; why can’t you simplify the process?

When the event registration system was designed, it was “one size fits all.” Staff in DSL realize that this does not work for all events, and they are in the process of reviewing our procedures. In fact, they have just begun a conversation with Dormcon to partner with them in a positive way to make some changes. We would rather have pragmatic solutions come from the students in moving forward in this area.

So party hearty, my friends, but party safely, and of course, only after you’ve registered your event.

Larry Benedict is dean for student life. Deans Katherine O’Dair, Tracy Purinton, Danny Trujillo, and Steven Tyrell contributed to this column.