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Boston board delays action on fraternity's dormitory license

The Boston Licensing Board postponed action on the Phi Gamma Delta dormitory license until November 26 last Thursday after a two-hour hearing at which MIT officials were questioned sharply by board members.

The three board members -- chair Elaine Rooney, Daniel Pokaski and Joseph Mulligan -- expressed frustration when police detectives and MIT officials declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding the incident that led to the death of MIT freshman Scott Krueger on September 29, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.

On September 27, the day after Mr. Krueger was found unconscious in an alcohol-induced coma in the fraternity house at 28 The Fenway, Boston police detectives cited the fraternity for serving alcohol to a minor, overdose of alcohol causing serious injury, and debris blocking the second-floor corridor and a fire exit in the basement. Earlier in the day, MIT had suspended the fraternity from all social activities and banned alcohol in the house.

The licensing board could modify, suspend or revoke the license as a result of these charges. Phi Gamma Delta, known as Fiji, has been cited twice in the past two years for earlier violations.

Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind Williams asked the board not to act until the Suffolk County grand jury investigation and any subsequent MIT investigation into Mr. Krueger's death are completed, allowing the 37 students still living in the house to remain there.

"These students living at 28 The Fenway have suffered a traumatic personal loss in the death of one of their community," she said. "They need to be with each other, they need familiar surroundings, and they need the counseling and other support services that MIT has been providing to help them cope with extraordinarily difficult circumstances."

Dean Williams testified after attorneys for the owners of the fraternity house urged the board to postpone action. The landlord is the nonprofit Malcolm Cotton Brown Corp., whose board of directors are alumni members of the fraternity.

The licensing board members noted that the fraternity was cited in February 1996 for underage drinking, and again last February for a noisy disturbance in front of the house during a party.

After the first incident, the Interfraternity Council banned alcohol at Fiji for nine months and assistant dean Neal Dorow conducted a TIPS (Training and Intervention Procedures) training session at the house. "We believed they made a commitment to avoid similar incidents," said Mr. Dorow, who is the advisor for fraternities, sororities and independent living groups. Mr. Dorow told the board that other students yelling at Fiji members were responsible for the February noise incident.

After the board recessed for a short time to discuss the issues, they agreed unanimously to postpone a decision for three weeks. Commissioner Pokaski said he believed a suspension was in order but would������������������defer judgment until all the facts are known.

"There's nothing we can do as a board that will come close to the effect this tragedy has had at MIT," said Commissioner Mulligan. Addressing the MIT administrators, he continued, "You have to decide you want to protect people under 21 from their own immaturity. You may have to take draconian measures. You may have to impose upon their freedom a little bit."

At an open forum on the night before the licensing board hearing, students and faculty members discussed whether freshmen should be required to live on campus. Every student who spoke opposed the random assignment of housing. The forum in Rm 34-101 was sponsored by Dean Williams and Professor Lotte Bailyn, chair of the faculty.

Professor Stephan Chorover of brain and cognitive sciences proposed a motion at the October faculty meeting that calls for MIT to house freshmen on campus starting next fall. The motion, which will be put to a vote at the next faculty meeting on November 19, is intended to provide a sense of faculty opinion to President Charles Vest before a decision is reached.

Background information on Professor Chorover's motion and a discussion of the issues by alumni and students has been posted on the Faculty Newsletter web page. The alumni/ae-student group calls on Professor Chorover to withdraw or amend his motion. Professor Richard Larson of EECS writes in favor of the resolution.

On November 4, MIT and Harvard University officials met with the Cambridge License Advisory Board at the Sail Loft to discuss alcohol-related issues on campus. MIT agreed to join Harvard in pledging $1,000 each to support the Cops in Shops program to deter underage drinking, a sting operation being conducted by Cambridge and Watertown police on package stores in their communities. MIT has been invited by the Cambridge License Commission to participate in a press conference announcing the program officially on November 20.

Draft suggestions on alcohol and housing problems by members of the Dormitory Council and the Interfraternity Council are posted on the Alcohol and Campus Environment web page. Developments also can be followed on the News Office home page, and a special page on alcohol-related news.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 12, 1997.

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