Binge drinking at MIT is about half the national rate (23 percent MIT, 43 percent national) and 30 percent of MIT students either have never drunk or haven't had a drink in the past year.
These facts, together with the serious study habits of MIT students, prompted many people and news reporters to comment on Scott Krueger's death in September, 1997 that, "If a death from alcohol poisoning can happen at MIT, it can happen anywhere."
The following is a brief outline of the many steps MIT administrators, students and faculty have taken since September, 1997 to strengthen the Institute's programs which seek to curb the abuse of alcohol.
Special Assistant to the President and Chancellor
Professor Emeritus Jay Keyser has been serving as a special assistant to the president and chancellor, working with students, faculty and staff to continue the process of change in student knowledge and attitudes about alcohol.
MIT is part of the Boston Coalition, which announced Dec. 7, 1998 that 24 Boston-area colleges have signed an agreement to work together to curb the abuse of alcohol on campuses, setting common standards and involving the entire college and urban community. The program involves students, fraternities and sororities, administrators, faculty, parents, alumni, police, athletic departments, liquor stores and the alcohol industry.
MIT Police in Back Bay
MIT Campus Police have been conducting nightly patrols of Boston's Back Bay since spring, 1999. They perform the same duties carried out by officers on campus, including answering medical calls, monitoring all registered events, and issuing alcohol citations. In addition, they foster relationships with neighbors of MIT residences. They patrol from 6pm to 2am, seven days a week.
Fraternities Disciplined: The Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, where freshman Scott Krueger was a pledge, is defunct. It has been de-recognized by MIT and it has dissolved itself. Other fraternities and individuals involved in alcohol violations also have been sanctioned by the Dean's Office and the Interfraternity Council.
Sanctions: MIT has established a system of progressive sanctions on alcohol violations, ranging from calling a student into the Dean's Office about a minor first infraction to fines of up to $1,500 and expulsion in aggravated cases. The Campus Police issue citations when officers observe alcohol violations.
Community Liquor Stores: MIT contributed $1,000 toward establishing the Cambridge Police "Cops in Shops" program to combat the sale of alcohol to minors.
In accord with MIT policy and US Department of Education regulations, MIT officials cannot comment on private matters of student discipline. Articles in the media have reported that a 1998 MIT graduate, Charles Yoo, has had his diploma revoked for five years because of his actions preceding the death of freshman Scott Krueger in 1997. The information was attributed to the student's lawyer, Timothy Burke of Needham. The Suffolk County District Attorney brought criminal charges of hazing and manslaughter against the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, an unincorporated association. The fraternity had dissolved and these charges were placed on the record as a default in October, 1998 when nobody appeared in court to represent the fraternity. The default means that the charges again would be brought against the fraternity should it seek to reorganize in the future
Freshmen on Campus in 2001
All freshmen will be housed in undergraduate campus residence halls starting in the Fall of 2001, when a new 350-bed undergraduate dorm is scheduled to open. The move was advocated in a number of faculty reports over the years as a way to provide a more comprehensive, academic introduction to the MIT community. It also was advocated in the Report on Dangerous Drinking in the Spring of 1998 and also in the Report of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning in the Fall of 1998.
A committee of faculty, students and staff evaluated the MIT residence system as a whole, and developed proposals for a system that maximizes the opportunity to contribute to the integrated educational experience of MIT students living in residence halls, independent living groups, fraternities and sororities. After a nine-month process that included critical evaluation from all members of the community, The Residence System Steering Committee presented its report to the Chancellor in early October.
Guaranteed Dormitory Housing on Campus
All freshmen for years have been guaranteed dormitory housing on campus if they wish, both at the start of the first semester or anytime later in the year.
Resident Advisors and Supervision
Resident Advisors: All fraternities, sororities and independent living groups (FSILGs) have graduate students as resident advisors. Some FSILGs also have faculty members who serve as fraternity advisors.
Social Life Without Alcohol
The Dean's Office works with student groups throughout the campus to plan and support alcohol-free campus-wide social events, such as swing dances. Revised IFC policies require events for new members to be alcohol free, and prohibit the use of organization funds to purchase alcohol.
Because a single, intense use of alcohol could be life threatening, MIT uses the term "dangerous drinking" rather than binge drinking. MIT's Working Group on Dangerous Drinking noted that dangerous drinking is a social behavior. It is something that you have to deal with over time by a multi-layered educational approach involving students, parents, peers, tutors, faculty and staff. Members of the Working Group said a ban on drinking on campus was not a solution because drinking at a bar downtown is as much a problem as drinking on campus.
Safety and prevention training, and educational programs on the issues of alcohol use and abuse and dangerous drinking have been strengthened and incorporated as core components of MIT's ongoing educational processes. Training programs are offered through Health Education in the Medical Department. Two Medical Department Resource Centers are available at the Student Center on the east side of campus and at the Medical Center on the west side.
All fraternities, sororities and independent living groups who wish to serve alcohol must complete educational programs on the physiology of alcohol use, safe use of alcohol, emergency medical response and CPR, and liability and risk management practices. Event registration procedures have been clarified and strengthened to ensure that guidelines are understood and observed.
Mike Green, president of the Collegiate Consultants on Drugs and Alcohol, led a discussion designed to educate undergraduates on the dangers of dangerous drinking. The session, in Kresge Auditorium from 8-9:30pm on Thursday, Sept. 2, focused on the body's physiological reaction to alcohol, and on responsible party behavior. Sponsored by the InterFraternity Council, the session was mandatory for freshmen pledges.
Alcohol and other counseling is available through the staff in the Dean's Office and the Medical Department, faculty advisors, housemasters, graduate residents, chaplains, as well as student groups such as MedLinks (students who serve as links between the Medical Department and their living groups) and peer telephone counseling via Nightline.