Skip to content ↓

Faculty hears proposals on alcohol, freshman housing

Suggested reforms in alcohol policy and freshman orientation activities were outlined at last week's faculty meeting by the chairs of groups charged with studying those issues.

The faculty also adopted a "sense of the faculty" substitute motion on freshman housing after making two amendments. About 60 faculty members attended the meeting on Wednesday in Rm 10-250.

Associate Provost Phillip Clay, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Alcohol Policy, discussed a number of principles and proposed interim policies regarding the use of alcohol at MIT. They centered on a commitment to encouraging responsible use of alcohol in compliance with the law, helping members of the community understand the dangers of alcohol abuse, and setting standards of social as well as individual responsibility in the use of alcohol.

The proposed interim policies included a continued ban on spending Institute funds for alcohol at all MIT events attended by people under 21, except in cases where the sponsor has prior approval from the appropriate senior officer (i.e., member of the Academic Council), based on meeting certain requirements.

The proposed interim policies recommend that responsibility for implementing policy on student alcohol use rests with the dean for student life, who will consult with academic deans and department heads. For functions in academic and administrative areas, including labs and centers, a letter will be forthcoming from Vice President for Human resources Joan Rice outlining the conditions for serving alcohol at events.

The committee, which also included Phillip Walsh, director of the Campus Activities Complex, and Stephen Immermann, director of special projects, made its recommendations after numerous meetings with students, including representatives from the Graduate Student Council, the Undergraduate Association, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and the Dormitory Council.

The dialogue was "remarkable for its thoughtfulness, intelligence and honesty," Professor Clay said. "As would be expected in a university of this size and diversity, substantial differences exist in the perception and understanding of alcohol policy, its implementation and applicable law."

Despite the differing interpretations of current policy, Professor Clay and the committee noted that "the willingness to have a cultural shift regarding alcohol is already observably underway at MIT. It is urgent that the policy be revised and clarified, lest inertia takes hold and the opportunity for change is lost."

The committee called for the interim policies to be in effect during the academic year while further campus-wide review and consultation takes place, with a new policy to be established by April.

FALL 1998

Professor of Ocean Engineering J. Kim Vandiver, chair of the Advisory Group on Orientation and Residence 1998, said the committee believed that housing all freshmen on campus would not be feasible or acceptable for the fall of 1998.

Professor Vandiver, who also serves on the Task Force on Student Life and Learning, said substantial improvements in the R/O system could be accomplished only if students and faculty: "accept commonly shared principles and goals." He noted that students now are "highly cynical of attempts by faculty to 'fix' the problem by attacking the present residence selection system."

The group made a number of suggestions to reform the process, starting with dropping the word "Residence" and renaming the process "Orientation." Many of the ideas were designed to foster better communication and a closer relationship between faculty and students beyond the classroom.

The group also outlined some principles to guide the residence choice process for freshmen, many of which mirrored proposals adopted by the IFC last week. These principles included:
��������������������������� Primary focus on the best interests of the incoming students.
��������������������������� Early, objective and accessible residence information.
��������������������������� Equitable and diverse housing choices for all students.
��������������������������� Better informed and less stressed students and parents.
��������������������������� High standards of conduct and responsibility in living groups.
��������������������������� A better informed faculty and staff, with better connections to the residences.
��������������������������� More opportunities for students to explore the residence system outside of rush.

In discussing possible changes in introducing first-year students to MIT, the committee proposed the following guiding principles:
��������������������������� Place more emphasis on orientation.
��������������������������� Have more participation by the entire community.
��������������������������� Focus on the development of the "whole person."
��������������������������� Have orientation reflect the academic reality and intellectual excitement of MIT.
��������������������������� Increase the interaction between faculty and students.
��������������������������� View orientation week as only the beginning; focus on follow-through.

"Faculty and administrative staff will carry much of the burden with respect to developing and following through on new initiatives in the orientation of students to MIT," Professor Vandiver said. "However, faculty must also become familiar with the residence system from first-hand experience in order for their attempts to change it to be credible."

Besides Professor Vandiver, the committee consisted of Professors Suzanne Flynn of foreign languages and literatures, Paul Gray of electrical engineering and computer science and Charles Stewart of political science; Associate Dean Andrew Eisenmann and Steven McCluskey of the Office of the Dean of Students; Robert Kaynor of the Planning Office; Holly Sweet of the Experimental Study Group; and four students -- Marion Groh, Pamela Mukerji, Ashesh Shah and William Shen, who chaired the committee that drafted the IFC's R/O reform recommendations.


The six-part substitute "sense of the faculty" motion, which grew out of a brief proposal at the October faculty meeting by Professor Stephan Chorover that advocated housing all freshmen on campus, was seconded by Professor Bettina Voelker, who said she would have voted against the original proposal.

The motion, adopted on a voice vote, called for reforms in the residence policies and improved relationships between faculty and students. Two changes were adopted in the motion that was printed in MIT Tech Talk last week. The phrase "including a delay of rush for those students who want it" was deleted at the suggestion of Professor Gray, and the clause that called for reports to the faculty on the suggested initiatives to commence in April was amended to include the MIT community. The text of the approved motion can be read on the web at once the meeting minutes are posted.

The faculty also approved by voice vote a number of editorial changes to the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 26, 1997.

Related Links

Related Topics

More MIT News