Community Development and Substance Abuse Programs

The Office for Community Development and Substance Abuse programs (CDSA) functions to engage all members of the MIT community in a comprehensive and integrated effort to enhance academic, social, and personal development. Overall, the office of CDSA programs advocates a campus culture that promotes informed, responsible decision-making and addresses the academic, social, legal, and personal consequences that are often associated with alcohol abuse and other drug use.

The enhancement of the community environment is critical for providing members a sense of affiliation and support for one another and MIT. This concept of community is instrumental for educational success and personal growth. To effectively accomplish this mission, the CDSA programs office relies heavily on community interaction, research, and the application of data to its strategic planning and service delivery.


In the past year, the office of Community Development and Substance Abuse programs, along with multiple MIT departments and student organizations, has worked to develop comprehensive initiatives intended to address the Institute's priorities regarding alcohol and other drugs, including eliminating/reducing dangerous drinking at MIT. This strategy involves collaboration with multiple entities that are actively engaged in addressing this issue, including MIT administration, students, and faculty, Counseling and Support Services, MIT Medical, the Police at MIT, City of Cambridge, City of Boston, and the State of Massachusetts.

CDSA recognizes the importance of fostering the Institute's recognition that students' transition to college life, accompanied by what may be their first experience of "freedom" away from home, may increase the potential of negative outcomes associated with poor decision-making, inadequate support, and substance abuse. A number of MIT students arrive on campus with limited exposure to drinking, sexual activity, life management, and coping skills. Combined with the concepts of experimentation and risk taking often perceived as an inherent part of the college experience, students who apply these concepts to the use of alcohol or other drugs elevate their risk for severe consequences. CDSA has worked diligently to collaborate with multiple departments in addressing issues associated with transition to college life, student expectations, and support within the living-learning environment that contribute to poor decision-making, ineffective coping strategies and substance abuse.

In addition, CDSA has relied heavily on student involvement in the development, implementation, and evaluation of its initiatives. It has developed the Student Advisory Coalition, consisting of 20 undergraduate students, intended to identify student and community concerns, initiate strategies and solutions for change, and make significant contributions to the policies and procedures associated with alcohol and other drug matters.

Finally, acknowledging that sound alcohol and other drug policies are critical in promoting academic performance and student potential, CDSA has worked independently and collaboratively in reviewing, revising, and developing policies and procedures that optimize the safety and quality of life in the community and promote the well-being of its members.

This strategy relies on the use of research to identify and understand MIT's campus climate, specifically the students' experiences and health behaviors associated with substance abuse, as well as the social and living environment; seriously consider the developmental factors that contribute to students' drinking, particularly those issues involving the critical transitions to the academic, social and support elements within the MIT experience; and evaluate and enhance current tactics to identify their efficacy on specific environmental features, student behaviors, or at-risk groups within the student population.

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Critical Content Areas and Initiatives


The environmental and individual assessment approach is intended to enhance understanding of the social and personal contributors in students' decision-making associated with substance use and high-risk behavior. An assessment of the campus social climate was conducted to identify those environmental factors and times during the academic term that may function to promote substance abuse/misuse, as well as factors that may protect individuals from the abuse and harms associated with substance abuse.

CDSA conducted a survey of behaviors, attitudes and perceptions associated with MIT student health during spring 2003. This survey was part of a national assessment of college students administered on over 150 campuses in 2002–2003.

Coalition Building and Partnership Development

Cambridge Licensee Advisory Board (CLAB) is a community coalition whose purpose is to ensure proper enforcement of minimum drinking age laws; place restrictions on alcohol retail outlet density; develop responsible beverage service policies and training to liquor license retailers in the City of Cambridge. In the fall of 2002, associate dean Danny Trujillo was appointed to the Board of Directors.

Campus Alcohol Advisory Board (CAAB) is an Institute-community coalition that involves collaboration with various entities, including the City of Cambridge, Cambridge Prevention Coalition, DSL, IFC, Panhel, UA, and DormCom. Since its inception, CAAB has successfully held over 30 "Frank Talks about Alcohol" programs in the student living communities. Its mission is to promote responsible behavior and reduce underage drinking on- and off-campus. As an organization, it has the ability to (1) discuss and make recommendations on issues related to alcohol, and (2) develop collaboration and encourage new initiatives and projects related to alcohol. Out of its multiple initiatives, CAAB has most recently worked with the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Prevention Coalition to develop server training/responsible hosting education for MIT's on-campus pubs and Fraternity chapters.

The CDSA programs office has also become an active member of the Massachusetts Statewide Coalition to Address Problem Drinking, coordinated through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Attorney General's office.

Policies, Procedures and Judicial Processes


The CDSA conducted a review of alcohol and other drug policies, procedures and their implementation. In partnership with the offices of Student Conflict Resolution and Discipline, Fraternity, Sorority, and Independent Living Groups, and Residential Life Programs, CDSA reviewed a range of disciplinary sanctions associated with policy violations for their suitability and for consistency of enforcement. Such a review is intended to inform revision or future development of policies and procedures, and to maintain partial compliance with the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Regulations (34 CFR Part 86).

Policy and Procedures

As an additional requirement for compliance of the federal Drug Free Schools and Campuses Act, CDSA composed the Statement on Drug Free Schools and Campuses, a document that requires specific content and must be circulated to all students and employees of MIT. In collaboration with the office of Human Resources, Legal Counsel, and MIT's outside legal counsel, Palmer & Dodge, CDSA reviewed and prepared distribution of the Statement on Drug Free Schools and Campuses. The goal of this information is to provide all students and employees of the Institute with appropriate alcohol awareness information, including local, state, and federal laws concerning alcohol and other drugs and the Institution's policies, including sanctions, prevention, intervention and referral resources. The alcohol section and the Statement on Drug Free Schools and Campuses was printed in the Safety, Security, and Crime Prevention Handbook, published by the Police at MIT in fall of 2002.

Left unaddressed, incidents involving student intoxication create a campus climate where others may feel that the Institute is not concerned about alcohol intoxication and/or does not address inappropriate behaviors. MIT has made progress in the review and, where appropriate, revision of the sanctioning process where sanctions are determined by the severity of the incident and the individual's prior history. The responses developed emphasize interventions that are consistent with the values of MIT as an institution of higher education, and effectively change behavior and reduce harm. This process to structure a unified institutional response for various alcohol-related incidents is currently underway with the collaboration of the Student Advisory Coalition, the Student Life Programs office, the Police at MIT, and the office of Student Conflict Resolution and Discipline.

Working with the office of Student Conflict Resolution and Discipline, the office of Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups (FSILG), and the CDSA programs office, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) has conducted a formal review and revision of its risk management polices, as well as instituted revisions to the enforcement process and peer-based judicial regulations and procedures.

CDSA has worked with the IFC to address personal and community liability issues and has worked to revise risk management policies for individual chapters as well as for IFC. Over the previous year, CDSA staff has cosponsored seminars and multiple opportunities for students to learn and discuss liability issues relevant to alcohol and other drug matters.

The Institute also encourages and supports efforts to address those substance abuse issues that extend beyond the individual student into the living community. The CDSA programs, Office of Residential Life Programs, and Office of Student Conflict Resolution and Discipline have developed and provided Community Interventions: programs tailored to residential floors, Greek chapters, or dormitories to discuss specific problems within the community associated with alcohol or other drugs and devise strategies to address or prevent similar issues in the future.

CDSA has worked with the FSILG Alumni Board to develop a role for them to support their chapters regarding alcohol issues and risk management. In addition, CDSA is currently developing a proposal with the AILG alcohol subcommittee in establishing a policy review process and to recommend appropriate educational initiatives on alcohol and other drug matters.

Event registration procedures have been clarified and distributed to the student living communities to ensure that guidelines are understood and observed.

Responsible Server Training

CDSA continues to support the IFC in sponsorship of their training and certification of active members in the Training and Intervention Procedures (TIPS) program that teaches how to serve alcohol responsibly and respond to situations involving alcohol abuse. CDSA has created a partnership with the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Prevention Coalition to work with the Residential Life Programs office, Student Activities office, FSILG office, IFC, students, house managers and housemasters for the purpose of creating a responsible host/beverage server-training program for MIT students.

Multidisciplinary, multiple department consultations

Multiple departments, including the Mental Health Department of MIT Medical, Counseling and Support Services, the Police at MIT, Residential Life and Student Life Programs, Office of Student Activities, Office of Fraternities, Sororities and Independent Living Groups, Office of Student Conflict Resolution and Discipline, and the Office of CDSA programs, have worked to consult and coordinate efforts to address alcohol policy matters. These consultations vary in focus from policy and procedure issues, legal regulations and liability, to the effective detection, intervention and referral of individuals with alcohol or other drug problems.

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Educational and Training Initiatives

CDSA provides community support through educational outreach and training efforts. As a major focus area, CDSA has designed and implemented these programs using a variety of materials and strategies to accommodate different learning styles and specific audiences, including:

The CDSA programs office increased training for students and student organizations in providing adequate support for their members, as well as in the personal, academic, and legal issues associated with substance use. These training opportunities include efforts with the IFC, Dormitory Council, the Medlinks peer program, and residential living groups.

CDSA conducted training sessions and distributed various resource publications describing the signs and symptoms of alcohol and other drug abuse and how to approach a student who has those symptoms. In addition, informational guides and posters on alcohol overdose were place in each living community. This information is distributed once per semester to all housemasters, graduate resident tutors, and resident assistants in the FSILG communities.

CDSA has provided ongoing training on the prevalence of substance use at MIT and staff members' roles in the prevention of alcohol-related problems for individuals and the living communities. These trainings have been provided to faculty advisors, housemasters, graduate resident tutors, resident assistants, chaplains, academic department advisors, as well as student groups such as MedLinks (students who serve as links between the Medical Department and their living groups).

CDSA has also provided seminars and in-service training to MIT professional staff from multiple departments, including Counseling and Support Services, housemasters and graduate resident tutors, the Mental Health department of MIT Medical, departmental academic advisors, and the annual MIT Medical conference seminar for health care professionals sponsored by the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Over the previous term, the CDSA programs office has also provided community consultations to multiple organizations, offices, and academic departments throughout the Institute. These consultations varied in focus from policy and legal information, alcohol and other drug related health information, to making appropriate referrals of individuals with alcohol or other drug problems. Since July 2002, the CDSA office has been involved in over 70 consultations with different segments of the MIT community, including the Graduate Student Council, Dormitory Council, the Editorial Board of the Tech, Residential Life Associates, MIT Sloan School, Student Athlete Advisory Committee, faculty, housemasters, graduate resident tutors, Interfraternity Council, Living Group Council, MIT Medical, fraternities, sororities and living groups.

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The facilitation of communication about alcohol and other drug issues within the MIT community was a major initiative for the previous year. CDSA programs created and implemented:

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The social marketing initiative represents the development of a comprehensive media campaign to address multiple health issues. The CDSA programs office, in collaboration with MIT students and the clinical and professional staff from MIT Medical, has formed the Social Marketing Committee to address a range of student development issues. Twelve MIT students have been selected to direct the creation and implementation of the marketing campaign. This campaign is designed to correct the widespread misperception that certain behaviors associated with alcohol use are normal and acceptable.

CDSA has integrated positive social normative messages associated with alcohol use and MIT student attitudes. These normative messages are intended to correct misperceptions students may hold regarding the alcohol use and permissive attitudes towards alcohol abuse by their peers. Research has indicated that such overestimates function to promote excessive alcohol use and the engagement of other high-risk behaviors by students. These messages are incorporated into current initiatives: during the orientation of first year students; on the CDSA office web pages; on a majority of printed material distributed to students (e.g. brochures, posters, alcohol resource "credit cards"); in programs and presentation provided to students; in training for student service personnel including graduate resident tutors, FSILG resident advisors, housemasters, academic advisors, counseling and mental health staff, Greek leadership.

CDSA distributed information regarding the detection and the importance of gaining immediate medical assistance in situations involving alcohol overdose or drug ingestion through media channels with a high level of student exposure (e.g. the student newspaper, posters on campus and in the residential communities). This dissemination in the living communities is coordinated with the graduate resident tutors and resident advisors.

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Orientation and the First Year Experience

Prior to the start of classes, CDSA provided incoming students with a copy of the Institution's alcohol policies, and a resource card containing helpful contact information, as well as information on the detection and emergency contacts for alcohol overdose. Incoming students were also provided information regarding social, recreational, and other events available in the cities of Boston and Cambridge.

Working with students, CDSA supervised and moderated the orientation program known as Tech Theater (peer theater group) involving 19 students who developed and performed scenarios involving real-life issues concerning sex, relationships, academics, and alcohol. This performance is intended to stimulate lively discussion with the audience regarding the impact of various circumstances and behaviors on the MIT community, and to promote informed, responsible decision-making during their college years. These scenarios also examine how the behavior of a small minority of students can adversely impact the entire community.

Early Intervention

In partnership with MIT Medical and the Dean for Student Life, the CDSA programs office has worked to coordinate and implement the BASICS program (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students) for the second year at MIT. Throughout the previous year the program provided for two-thirds of MIT Medical's Mental Health staff to be trained as BASICS counselors. This year, the online screening of first year students resulted in 840 students completing the questionnaire (86 percent of the entering MIT freshmen class). Thirteen percent met predetermined criteria for engaging in high risk drinking. Of this thirteen percent, 56 percent voluntarily participated in the BASICS intervention.

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The MIT Social Experience

A significant means to prevent alcohol abuse involves the frequent availability of social opportunities on campus that are substance free. The office of Student Life Programs, the office of the Dean for Student Life, and the CDSA programs office have provided, and will continue to provide, support for these types of social activities.

CDSA has also assisted significantly in the communication of nonalcoholic social and recreational activities to the student communities via advertisements in The Tech and 2000 informational mousepads created by CDSA and distributed to all computers in all the Athena clusters on campus.

In November, 2002, CDSA programs collaborated with the CAAB and the CLAB, the two university-community coalitions that address alcohol abuse and underage drinking issues on and off campus, to create the first annual "Battle of the Bands" night at the House of Blues in Cambridge. This alcohol-free event was designed to offer a social opportunity for students from MIT, Lesley University, and Harvard University. Six musical groups from MIT and Harvard were selected to perform and compete with each other. This event occurred on November 10, 2002 at the House of Blues. (Nov. 11th is a holiday with no classes scheduled, an occasion for potentially greater use of alcohol.) Approximately 600 MIT students attended the event.

As a part of the 2003 Spring Weekend festivities, CDSA worked with members of Nu Delta fraternity, MacGregor hall, and the student dance group, Imobilare, in coordinating the "Get Sprung-A Night of Hip Hop Education" event. This event was intended to serve not only as an alcohol-free social opportunity, but also as a celebration of MIT's diverse student body. The night started off with a panel discussion on the misperceptions of hip-hop culture, specifically in terms of race relations, violence, and substance abuse. Panelists included Tim Lindberg, president and CEO of Metroconcepts, a Boston-based hip hop agency, Stephen Webber, professor at Berklee College of Music and author of several books on the art of DJs, and Chhay Chhun, DJ, bboy, and project researcher for Harvard's Hip Hop Archives. The event continued with a performance by MIT student group, Boss Beat Sound Crew, and an "open mic" for MIT students to freestyle and beat box. Finally, the night closed out with a performance by popular entertainer, Rahzel. Over 500 students attended throughout the evening.

Daniel A. Trujillo
Associate Dean for Community Development and Substance Abuse

More information about the office of Community Development and Substance Abuse Programs can be found on the web at


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