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Alcohol Policy Reworked, Codified Updated Institute Guidelines May Draw Student Displeasure, Distrust

By Jihye Kim

In accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act, alcohol procedural guidelines have been revised and codified in hopes of consistently addressing alcohol issues in MIT dormitories, although increased diciplinary action may cause negative student responses. The guidelines outline the proper procedures to deal with alcohol problems or emergencies, such as medical transport and student confidentiality.

Led by the Community Development and Substance Abuse Programs in collaboration with MIT housemasters, legal counsel, and other student governance groups, the entire revision process lasted from Nov. 2005 until Aug. 2006.

“New GRTs and housemasters were having difficulty figuring out how to respond to certain ‘high-risk’ situations, and saw a need to have some guidelines drawn up to outline what steps they should take in certain situations,” said Dormitory Council President David A. Nedzel ’07. Since students typically rely on their living communities and on each other for such personal support, these guidelines were drawn up to be sensitive to each community’s standards and culture. The guidelines are not as rigid as those of other universiies, specifically in terms of consequences and severity.

Although this document is intended to facilitate the roles of house team members and increase student support and governance, Nedzel raised a concern about the implications of the aforementioned minimum sanctions required by law on the GRT system.

“These ‘mimimum response’ guidelines seemed somewhat strict. I worry that this policy document and others like it may reduce that feeling of trust and GRT approachability in fear of risking disciplinary penalties,” Nedzel said.

Different alcohol standards in graduate dormitories allow for flexibility even though general alcohol policy regulations still apply.

The recently integrated alcohol guidelines are intended to satisfy federal expectations as specified in the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Act, which requires colleges to develop policies for preventing the misuse of alcohol as well as describe and apply minimum sanctions for common alcohol violations, according to Daniel Trujillo, the associate dean for CDSA. Unlike MIT’s Alcohol and Other Drug Policy, which is widely published in the student handbook, course catalogue, first-year student packets, and other web resources, the revised alcohol guidelines are used to clarify the roles of the house team members, such as GRTs and housemasters, and to integrate these written guidelines into their current practices to support their local judicial committees.

These alcohol guidelines were disseminated in spring 2006 among housemasters, GRTs, and student governance groups, including the Undergraduate Association, Dormitory Council, Interfraternity Council, and Panhellenic Association for student feedback, which CDSA found extremely helpful in the process.

“Beyond the federal regulations, we wanted to figure out how this would benefit the students as well as the house teams. I think that’s why having the students and housemasters involved was critical,” said Trujillo of the “open process” of revision.

Trujillo described this revision as an on-going dialogue open for review and revision in the future. “The ultimate goal is to get that student help — the type of help that would allow them to be successful and continue their academic careers.”

See below for the complete guidelines.