Two MIT fraternities had their lodging licenses suspended by the Cambridge Licensing Commission (CLC) last week because of alcohol-related problems at overflow parties.
Benjamin C. Barnes, chair of the CLC, ordered the suspensions of Kappa Sigma and Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) to coincide with next fall's rush. About 65 returning upperclass members will be affected. No more than three persons will be permitted to reside in each house while the suspension is in effect.
Mr. Barnes ordered the suspensions to begin on the day freshmen arrive on campus in August. Kappa Sigma's license will be suspended for 30 days and ATO's for 10. Mr. Barnes said Kappa Sigma received the more severe punishment because it had a history of violations while ATO had a clean record. The commission also ruled that ATO must be alcohol-free for one year.
The lodging licenses of both houses were modified to explicitly note that there are not to be more than 50 nonresidents in either house at any time.
Before the board announced its decisions last Thursday morning, the presidents of both fraternities read statements that outlined steps each group planned to take to prevent future incidents.
Campus Police closed down an authorized party at Kappa Sigma on 407 Memorial Drive last November 13 when it grew to 450-500 people, well beyond its authorized number. Later, Campus Police received a call from Boston College police, who reported an 18-year-old BC student was brought to the BC infirmary by friends after he returned drunk from the Kappa Sigma party. The party took place within 10 weeks of the end of a one-year alcohol prohibition on the fraternity imposed by the CLC, which conducted a hearing on the charges on February 8.
Christopher J. Peikert, president of Kappa Sigma, told the board that the chapter would ban alcohol for two years and hire a full-time paid resident manager. That person's duties will include acting as liaison to local authorities, ensuring that terms of the lodging license are enforced, and ensuring that the house is in compliance with fire safety and health codes. MIT will work with the members in selecting and training the manager, who will assume his duties next August.
"We believe that these steps prove that Kappa Sigma is proactively addressing the commission's concerns," said Mr. Peikert, a senior in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS). "We hope that the commission finds these ideas constructive and we remain receptive to future requests." The Dean's Office told the CLC that it fully endorsed the fraternity's proactive steps.
All three CLC members congratulated the fraternity for its aggressive response. Mr. Barnes said he timed the suspension to provide a visible example to incoming freshmen. He instructed the house "to be truthful about why the license has been suspended."
Prior to the CLC action, the IFC had banned alcohol at all events in the house until June 1 and at large events (25 or more guests) until the fraternity was recertified, no earlier than September 1. These sanctions are superceded by the fraternity's voluntary action.
ALPHA TAU OMEGA
ATO was cited after Campus Police broke up an unauthorized party of about 100 at the house (located at 405 Memorial Drive) on New Year's Eve, arresting four non-MIT party-goers and issuing citations to an MIT freshman and a sophomore for serving alcohol to minors. Members testified at the CLC hearing on February 29 that no more than five ATO members were in the house on that night.
"This matter is not being taken lightly by any of the parties involved," said Jeffrey J. Billing, president of ATO. "Every step needs to be taken to avoid any similar occurrence when our house is not fully occupied." Mr. Billing, a junior in EECS, said nonresidents would not be permitted in the house when fewer than 12 of its 48 members are present. He said Campus Police would be authorized to remove such persons at those times and a security guard would be hired as an added precaution.
Mr. Barnes firmly counseled the president that ATO should have taken more responsibility for the incident. He noted a number of times that there were "no control points whatsoever" in the house that night. "This is a situation that was totally out of control," he said, "and no one said, 'we made a mistake.'"
After a Dean's Office review, charges against the freshman were dropped and the sophomore was required to attend a counseling session with a dean on the underage drinking charge. The sophomore was also suspended by the fraternity and will be asked to move out of the house next semester if he is not reinstated by a nine-tenths vote of the membership. The event started when the sophomore invited friends to the house.
The Interfraternity Council earlier banned ATO from serving alcohol for 60 days, a period which ended on March 1. Charges against the four non-MIT party-goers were dismissed in Cambridge District Court.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 8, 2000.