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Dean Hutchinson reconvenes Alcohol Policy Advisory Committee

By Andrew Ta     11/8/12 6:00pm


In response to the number of alcohol-related Rice Emergency Medical Services transports during Wiess College's Night of Decadence party, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said he would convene the Alcohol Policy Advisory Committee to recommend potential changes. 

According to the Rice University Alcoholic Beverage Policy, the policy will be reviewed regularly. 

"Whenever necessary, the Dean of Undergraduates may convene an Alcohol Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) to provide input on implementation of this policy and potential revisions to it," the policy states. 

According to Hutchinson, the APAC will be composed of representatives from each of the colleges, the Student Association and the University Court, and will also include Associate Deans of Undergraduates Matthew Taylor and Don Ostdiek. Hutchinson said he would remain off the committee but that he will have the final say in any decisions. 

On Oct. 27 at NOD, nine of the 10 students transported for alcohol-related reasons during the party were underage, according to a report received by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, TABC spokesperson Lt. Tana Travis told ABC News. 

After the NOD incident, Hutchinson spoke with other members of the administration, college presidents, college masters and students, he said. 

"The biggest area of concern was a lack of understanding and lack of knowledge about the alcohol policy," Hutchinson said. "People [I met with] thought [the policy] was too difficult to enforce." 

The policy, written 25 years ago, was deliberately nonspecific so students could say they knew the expectations and would abide by them, according to Hutchinson. 

"That said, there are many students this year who aren't aware of the expectations and responsibilities," Hutchinson said. "We're looking for whatever approach will most effectively keep students safe while also encouraging responsibility." 

According to Hutchinson, the APAC will deliver its report in February when student leaders' terms end. 

 "Right now, there are no conclusions," Hutchinson said. "We don't want to respond in a way that will make students avoid EMS. The question is why [students] are in that position in the first place." 

Hutchinson said the hard alcohol ban enforced in spring of 2011 was effective. According to Hutchinson, another probation is not off the table because every solution will be considered. 

"We need to consider the [alcohol] policy in ways that are clear, more well-defined, and thus more enforceable," Hutchinson said. 

The APAC will examine peer institutions for effective benchmarks when forming its recommendation, but the eventual solution will probably be unique to Rice, Hutchinson said. 

"What makes Rice unique is the combination of strong student government and extraordinary student leadership," Hutchinson said. "Rice can solve what others cannot." 

The APAC has been convened before, in 2007 by previous Dean of Undergraduates Robin Forman, as well as during the 1997-1998 year and 2003-2004 year, Hutchinson said. In the 1997-1998 year, the section on Private Gatherings was added. In the 2003-2004 year, the same section was reexamined, resulting in college-specific rules. 

Hutchinson said the post-NOD media response was not a factor in calling the committee. 

"I always have concerns about student abuse of alcohol," Hutchinson said. "NOD highlighted that concern. I'm always examining all aspects of care to students. That's not new." 

Jones College junior Eric Bradford said that although he would not enjoy a stricter alcohol policy, he thinks Rice students deserve one. 

"People are continually showing the administration that they are not able to responsibly consume alcohol," Bradford said. "I don't think people always appreciate the situation we have here on campus. We are given a lot of freedom." 

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