At the beginning of the fall 1997 semester, Scott Krueger, a freshmen pledge of the former Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, died from overconsumption of alcohol during a “big brother celebration”. His death spurred sweeping changes in MIT’s policies with respect to student life. The construction of Simmons Hall, already underway, was expedited so that all freshmen could live on campus by 2002. The student activity budget was tripled to $300,000. A workgroup on dangerous drinking formed the CDSA (Community Development and Substance Abuse Center) and hired AED (Academy for Education Development) in 2002 to begin social marketing to reduce adverse outcomes produced by dangerous behaviors. Larry Benedict (former Dean for Student Life), Annette Jacobs (former Executive Director, MIT Medical), and Bill Kettyle (Medical Director, MIT Medical) sponsored this initiative with $130,000 over three years AED, working with a group of mostly MIT undergraduates called the Campaign Team, ran focus groups and began a “celebrate deviance” campaign, mainly consisting of posters. A tip book called “Survive MIT” was created and distributed to MIT students. The media produced by AED and the Campaign Team, though inspired from student ideas, was considered to be too well polished and many saw it as an administrative initiative. Overall, the student body response was ambivalent to slightly negative. Much of the overly preachy material was pulled, and MIT stopped working with AED.
In the 2003-2004 academic year, SaveTFP evolved from the Campaign team and began to develop new tip books called “Conquer MIT” and posters. While providing MIT alcohol consumption statistics and suggestions to reducing dangerous drinking behavior, the new tip books also provided useful information for students including where to get late night delivery, a list of the best jobs on campus, and a survey of fun places to visit in Boston. SaveTFP wanted to extend our mission beyond social marketing and sought to host campus-wide, alcohol-free events. At the time, something like this was unheard of, because all student social life was restricted to within the living groups and was usually associated with alcohol. The student center was undergoing renovations and vendors were being added to the second floor. Vendors wanted to take the Coffeehouse, which had been student run on-and-off for decades. SaveTFP negotiated for the coffeehouse to remain intact, and began to host weekly coffeehouse revivals on Friday nights. It was a difficult first year for SaveTFP; attendance was minimal at the beginning events. However, students began to warm up to the idea of having fun outside their living groups without drinking.
SaveTFP began getting recurring funds from the CDSA starting in the 2004-2005 academic year. The group continued to produce tip books, have focus groups, and created new ideas for campus-wide events. We hosted the first Spooky Skate on Halloween, which was a smashing success. On the Friday near Valentine’s Day, another skating event was held. On the Friday night before the Spring Weekend concert, typically a high-risk party night, SaveTFP organized a smaller concert. The influence of the group was growing and it was becoming more well-received by students.
In the fall of 2006, the members of SaveTFP renovated and refined our goals to complement the constantly changing dynamic of student life at MIT. Where we were once active in a social marketing campaign to reduce dangerous drinking behaviors and enhance student mental health, we are now more broadly committed to reducing stress in students, promoting healthy social practices, raising awareness of resources, encouraging student culture on campus, and increasing awareness of recreational options on and off campus. SaveTFP continues to evolve to fulfill our need on campus.