The Boston Licensing Board (BLB) took 90 seconds last Thursday to approve Sigma Nu's request to transfer its dormitory license to 28 The Fenway in Boston, former site of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house. Sigma Nu plans to relocate from its cramped Newbury Street quarters in the fall.
Congratulating Sigma Nu on its clean record and history of being good citizens, BLB chair Daniel Pokaski said, "You should be a model for other MIT fraternities."
On Wednesday, the board conducted a hearing on the request. House Corporation President Michael Plusch (SB 1991), chapter president Justin Schmidt, a sophomore, and vice president David Berman, a senior (both majoring in electrical engineering and computer science), presented the case for Sigma Nu, with eight other members and resident advisor Conan Hom in the audience. Assistant Dean Neal H. Dorow read a statement of support. City Councilor Thomas Keane and the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services also supported the proposal.
The fraternity presented board members with documents that outlined the fraternity's philosophy, bylaws, public service projects and other achievements. The fraternity is alcohol-free and has never been cited for license violations.
Among the documents submitted was a letter from a Newbury Street neighbor, Elizabeth E. Dooley of the Ladies Guild, a residence for women. Mrs. Dooley, who also testified at the hearing, wrote: "You are all excellent neighbors -- sincere, dedicated, totally focused young men." She concluded her oral testimony by saying, "I only wish I could introduce every one of them to a nice young girl."
Nineteen of Sigma Nu's 27 members now live in double and triple rooms at 523 Newbury St. in the Back Bay. The fraternity rents nearby apartments for the others. The building at 28 The Fenway accommodates 44. Sigma Nu and the Malcolm Cotton Brown Corp., Phi Gamma Delta's house corporation, are negotiating the terms of a lease.
Sigma Nu was founded as an anti-hazing fraternity and has prohibited such practices since its inception in 1869. The MIT chapter began a progressive alcohol-free policy in 1995 and is now completely alcohol-free. Nationwide, all chapters must be dry by 2000.
Sigma Nu members have participated in the MIT CityDays Festival, the Interfraternity Council Hunger Hike, the Cambridge YWCA partnership and LINKS. Members cleaned and painted the basement of a Cambridge soup kitchen last year during the Order of Omega Greek Week Community Service Day. The national fraternity cited the MIT group for having the third-highest grade-point average among its more than 300 chapters last year.
Phi Gamma Delta was suspended by MIT and the BLB after freshman pledge Scott Krueger died of alcohol poisoning after drinking at the fraternity house in September 1997. The chapter was subsequently dissolved.
In supporting Sigma Nu's application, Dean Dorow told the board, "The tragic history of this particular address is one in which the members of Sigma Nu had no part and for which they bear no responsibility."
Withholding support of the transfer, he said, "would simply punish the members of an exemplary fraternity who have shown, through their past actions, that they are committed to behaving responsibly. There is no justification for inflicting that punishment on Sigma Nu when they have done nothing to deserve it."
Aside from caretakers, no Phi Gamma Delta member has lived in the house since January 1998.
A version of this article appeared in the April 7, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 25).