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Binge-drinking panel seeks alumni/ae, parental comment

The Working Group on Binge Drinking has announced it is seeking the suggestions and comments of alumni/ae and parents of students, as well as students, faculty and staff, in the challenge of reducing binge drinking and its damaging consequences, including alcohol poisoning, date rape and poor work performance.

"We are specifically investigating suggestions on to inform MIT students effectively about the problems associated with binge drinking," said Professor Phillip A. Sharp and Dr. Mark A. Goldstein, co-chairs of the working group. "The consequences of this behavior include, among others, alcohol poisoning, high-risk behavior, sexual harassment, date rape, and poor work performance. We need to talk about this."

They noted that binge drinking affects many students beyond the drinker, and also that MIT has a low incidence of drinking compared to other campuses. "More than half of the MIT student population does not consume alcohol on a monthly basis," they said, citing previous Medical Department surveys.

"The MIT undergraduate population is evolving, with increasing an number of women and minorities who use alcohol less. MIT is becoming a more social campus, and thus the social interaction on campus must be examined and considered. Among the suggestions we have received is the need for campus-centered activities that do not involve alcohol," Drs. Sharp and Goldstein said.

"The Working Group on Binge Drinking has been charged with making recommendations to President Vest in order to reduce the incidence of excessive, irresponsible drinking among MIT students.

"We have reviewed studies of the frequency and consequence of binge drinking nationally and at MIT, as well as programs on other university campuses designed to control abusive drinking. We have met with representatives from various offices at MIT and have scheduled meetings with external experts, students and others." They will be visiting some living groups soon.

The working group invites parents of students, alumni/ae and other interested individuals to send suggestions and comments to Nina Erlich, staff assistant for the working group, by either e-mail at or regular mail addressed to Nina L. Erlich, MIT Rm 68-583, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139.

The members of the group, which first met in December and has been meeting weekly since the beginning of the year, are Pascal R. Chesnais, a graduate student in media arts and sciences; Professor Suzanne H. Corkin of brain and cognitive sciences; Professor John M. Essigman of the Division of Toxicology and housemaster at New House; Professor Edward H. Farhi of physics; Dr. Goldstein (co-chair), chief of pediatrics and student health services at the Medical Department; Ritu Gupta, a junior in biology, a member/peer educator of the UpFront Educational Theatre Troupe and a resident of McCormick Hall; Professor Alan V. Oppenheim of electrical engineering and computer science; Associate Professor Kenneth Oye of political science, director of the Center for International Studies and former East Campus housemaster; Juan Rodriguez, a senior in biology, a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and active in UpFront; Susan E. Rushing, a junior in brain and cognitive sciences, a member of Alpha Phi and active in MEDLinks; and Professor Sharp, head of the Department of Biology (co-chair).

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 11, 1998.

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