The hazing and manslaughter charges against Phi Gamma Delta in the 1997 death of freshman Scott Krueger remain in suspense after no one representing the fraternity appeared in court and the Suffolk County district attorney's office turned media attention to extensive policy changes at MIT as evidence of the impact of their yearlong investigation.
"MIT has completely revamped its alcohol, disciplinary and housing policies," said Assistant District Attorney Pamela Wechsler in a statement following the default hearing on Monday. "We think a lot of things have happened as a result of our investigation."
Ms. Wechsler, who was prosecuting the case and had requested the default hearing, told Magistrate William K. Walsh, "We're not asking for a warrant. We are asking that the default remain in papers. In the event that the fraternity reorganizes itself and MIT recognizes it as part of its housing, we will ask for a default."
"We have run the fraternity out of town," declared Ms. Wechsler to local print and TV media after the default hearing. She acknowledged that her goal in keeping the case in papers was to preempt both the fraternity's reorganizing and MIT's recognition of it as part of Institute housing.
The fraternity, which has been officially de-recognized at MIT since September 14, failed to appear at an arraignment scheduled for Friday and at the default hearing. Ordinarily, an individual's failure to appear at an arraignment results in a default hearing and the issuing of an arrest warrant.
William A. Martin III, national spokesperson for Phi Gamma Delta, said, "Simply put, there is no chapter to appear in Suffolk County Superior Court to answer the indictments." He said that Phi Gamma Delta International Fraternity suspended its MIT chapter in October 1997. "The chapter is not in operation," he said.
William H. Kettewell, Boston attorney for the national Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, notified the court by letter on the day of the arraignment that he was not authorized to serve as the fraternity's agent in the case.
James Borghesani, a spokesman for District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II, conceded the case against the fraternity had effectively ended when no one appeared at the arraignment, but he pointed to "tremendous changes" at MIT resulting in greater awareness of the "perils and consequences of binge drinking" that were sparked by the criminal proceedings.
"Fraternities and universities across the country are now on notice that they may be potentially held criminally liable when drinking gets out of hand and people get hurt," Mr. Borghesani said to reporters on Friday.
The fraternity was derecognized under an agreement written before the indictment was announced on September 17. It may apply for recognition no earlier than September 2001, and MIT reserves its right to approve or disapprove whenever an application is made.
"If and when anybody reapplied, we would take into account all the facts that were then known, including yesterday's statement by the district attorney's office," Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind Williams said Tuesday.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 28, 1998.