Massachusetts raising the drinking age to 21 (1984)

Here are two Tech articles about alcohol policy at MIT in the mid '80's, and how people thought the raising of the drinking age might affect that. Also, here's a link to a third, about frat-Back Bay relations.

Dorm alcohol must be OK'd
By Edward E. Whang
(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles on alcohol use at MIT.)

Institute Houses need the approval of the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs for open events where alcohol is served, according to Robert A. Sherwood, associate dean for student affairs.

Sherwood distributed a seven-page memorandum to student organizations and living groups explaining the ODSA's policy on alcohol.

Dormitories must get Dean's Office approval for open and advertised events with alcohol involving more than 100 residents. Fraternities and independent living groups, however, need not seek ODSA approval for most parties, Sherwood said.

"We have more responsibility for the dorms," he explained, "but since fraternities are off-campus and independently owned, we are less concerned."

Larger fraternity parties, such as Phi Delta Gamma's Fiji Island Party, Phi Kappa Sigma's Skuffle, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon's SAE-lor Party, require ODSA approval. Campus-wide fraternity parties, especially those where alcohol is served outside the house area, require approval, the memorandum stated.

ODSA approval requires that the group purchase a Massachusetts liquor license. "When a living group comes to us for approval, we write a letter recommending that a liquor license be granted for the event. Again, we can't require fraternities to get a liquor license for private parties," Sherwood said.

The event may also require the presence of an MIT Campus Police officer. Student functions that involve the sale of alcohol, an admission fee, or outside advertising are charged a fee for the officer.

"This rule doesn't apply to independent living groups - Campus Police jurisdiction is limited to the campus," Sherwood said.

The Dean's Office also forbids the use of alcohol as the focus of any event. Listings of the kinds of alcohol available or phrases such as "All you can drink" in advertisements are contrary to this policy, according to Sherwood's memorandum.

"Tank [the speed-drinking competition during Spring Weekend] has gotten lots of comments on this regard even though it is one of the most popular social events on campus," Sherwood said. "It remains to be seen if Tank remains."

About half of MIT students can legally consume alcohol; however, if the legal drinking age is raised to 21, only a fourth of MIT students will be able to drink legally.

"All states have to raise their legal drinking age to 21 within 2 years, or they will lose federal highway funds," Sherwood said. "My point of view is that this change is unfortunate. Students will drink secretly rather than in the open. Students should be able to learn responsible drinking habits in college."

Sherwood said he has been satisfied with how living groups have complied with the ODSA policies on alcohol. "Several liquor licenses are obtained by living groups every week," he said. "The procedures must be followed for entire-community events advertised by drop posters, but we don't want to get involved in dictating rules for smaller fraternity parties."

Sherwood said he thinks MIT has far fewer alcohol-related problems than other schools. "We aren't even in the same league with other schools; MIT students are, on the whole, responsible about alcohol," he said.


Proposed drinking age could influence policy
By Edward E. Whang
(Editor's note: This is the second in a series examining alcohol use on campus.)

MIT policy on alcohol will have to change when Massachusetts raises its drinking age to 21 next year, according to Undergraduate Association President David M. Libby '85.

MIT will need to reassess its al- cohol regulations: "By the end of the year, we need a comprehensive policy on alcohol," Libby said.

Since half of the undergraduate student body can legally drink at present, they can be trusted to use their judgment, Libby said. MIT will need a new policy, however, when the new drinking age permits only a fourth of the undergraduates to legally drink, he said.

"Under the new legal age, minors will continue to drink, but in a way the policy intends them not to," Libby said. "They will drink in their rooms - they will drink just for drinking's sake."

"At a party, in the open, alcohol is moderated because there are other things," he said.

The legal drinking age of 21 could effect campus drinking in several ways, according to Stephanie L. Scheidler '85, UA vice president and member of the Committee for Alcohol Awareness, an advisory group to the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs.

MIT may impose stricter measures for campus events where alcohol is served, she said. One possibility is the use of wrist-bands, rather than hand stamps at parties, for marking those of drinking age.

Scheidler also said that, in the future, student pubs may place less emphasis on the consumption of alcohol as a central activity.

"The Junior-Senior Pub may no longer exist [in the years to come]," Scheidler said. "Now students go for drinking and the band. It might be changed so that students who can't drink won't feel left out."

Dormitory Council Chairman David C. Sherman, also a member of the alcohol committee, said the new drinking age could lead to an alcohol-free Rush Week. "Many fraternity nationals are pushing their chapters to have dry rushes," he said.

"I don't see MIT going to a dry rush next year," Scheidler said, "but alcohol-related rush violations will probably be dealt with more severely. Also, hard liquor may not be allowed during rush week."

The current Dean's Office policy does not impose regulations on fraternity use of alcohol, according to William T. Maimone '84, InterFraternity Conference chairman. "It isn't MIT's policy to be babysitting," he said.

Fraternities are autonomous and independent of MIT, while MIT is directly responsible for dormitories, Maimone said. Dormitory floor parties, like fraternity parties, do not require ODSA approval, he said.

Sherman said, "I don't find it unfair at all that dormitories are under ODSA alcohol regulations; dorms are tied to MIT so there are stricter rules.

"The ODSA alcohol policy has worked very smoothly," he said. "There haven't been any problems yet. However, with the new drinking age, some changes will need to be made."