Research shows the success of a bacterial community depends on its shape.
The Interfraternity Council (IFC) has severely disciplined Beta Theta Pi for a rooftop party that ended with Boston University police peppered by beer bottles. The fraternity claims that the event was organized by summer residents and their guests and that no members were in attendance.
Beta Theta Pi pleaded guilty on July 29 to having two kegs and allowing an uncertified event at which alcohol was served at the fraternity house at 119 Bay State Road, Boston, on July 18. One BU officer underwent surgery as a result of injuries he said he received during the incident.
The IFC banned alcohol at the house until Sept. 7, 1999 and fined the fraternity $1,000. In addition, the IFC will require 90 percent of the members to perform 30 hours of community service apiece in the Bay State Road area. It also will require that one-third of the residents next summer be members of Beta Theta Pi, known as Beta.
MIT continues to investigate the incident aggressively, interviewing fraternity members and summer boarders, attempting to identify who purchased the kegs, and contacting deans of other local institutions whose students were probably present at the event.
"The IFC response deals only with the alcohol-related infractions and the indirect collective responsibility for the party's being held at the house," said Rosalind H. Williams, Dean for Undergraduate Education. "MIT is taking action above and beyond what the IFC has done in our effort to find the person or persons individually responsible for the criminal assault." She said MIT has offered to provide information and assist the Boston University Police Department and Boston Police Department in their investigations.
Boston University police sought complaints in Roxbury District Court against MIT senior James Williams, a member of BTP, for supplying alcohol to minors and assault and battery against a police officer. A hearing is scheduled for September 2.
"So far, all our information indicates that no MIT student --including Williams--was present at the party or involved in the bottle-throwing," Dean Williams said. "In Williams' case, we expect that the disputed facts will be resolved through the judicial process."
Looking beyond the BTP incident, MIT is concerned with making sure that all fraternities, sororities and independent living groups (FSILGs) effectively monitor and control the behavior of summer residents. Shortly after the BTP incident, Dean Williams sent a letter to all summer residents of FSILGs to assure that they understand the policies and rules of summer residence. "It reminds them forcefully that we have the same expectations of summer residents as we do of term-time members," she said.
The dean's office and the IFC are discussing the formation of a system of spot checks of Beta and other houses that are supposed to be alcohol-free to ensure they are complying with the sanction.
In addition, resident advisors will be required to be in residence at all fraternities and independent living groups 12 months a year. Virtually all of the FSILGs have already hired resident advisors for the fall. Beta has narrowed the field to a final few candidates.
Primarily graduate students, and recent alumni, the advisors are expected "to act as a mentor and resource for the residents and to provide a mature presence," said Neal H. Dorow, assistant dean for residence and campus activities.
The IFC has also sanctioned two other fraternities, one for violating its alcohol policies and the other for ignoring a previously imposed ban on recruiting incoming freshmen. Kappa Sigma and Sigma Alpha Epsilon appealed the decisions. Hearings before the IFC Executive Committee will be scheduled shortly.
Beta Theta Pi
Members of Beta Theta Pi told the IFC hearing that the July 18 event was attended and organized by summer residents and their friends.
Beta rush chair Robert Tunick, who arrived at the scene when he heard the disturbance, told the IFC hearing, "No Betas were present; no Betas purchased or consumed alcohol."
While pleading guilty, the fraternity said that only six members were in residence during the summer, none of whom was at the party.
When Beta members became aware of the disturbance, they said they chased two youths into the street after party-goers identified them as the bottle-throwers. Boston police released the young men when they said they were unable to obtain positive identification. A bystander was arrested and charged with public drunkenness.
Katie Hardacre, chair of the IFC Judicial Committee, announced the decision in a letter to BTP. "We respect that Beta Theta Pi agrees with the Judicial Committee that you hold managerial responsibility for the actions of all people on your property, even if Beta Theta Pi members are not personally involved," she said. "As a result of your recognition of responsibility, we understand that Beta Theta Pi has taken a great deal of action to ensure that nothing untoward occurs in your house again."
Beta's national organization suspended the chapter on July 30 for a year, putting the alumni group in charge. The alumni group is conducting its own investigation of the incident. A Boston Licensing Board hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 18.
Kappa Sigma, 407 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, was sanctioned for serving alcohol to a minor early on the morning of July 18. MIT Campus Police said the intoxicated minor and an Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) member had been drinking at a party at Kappa Sigma. The intoxicated 20-year-old man, a non-affiliate, tripped on the stairs at ATO at about 2:30am. Cambridge firefighters said he was combative when they responded to a medical emergency call and they called the MIT Campus Police.
Kappa Sigma told the IFC Judicial Committee the event was an informal gathering of alumni, the wife of one of the alumni, and members of the BU chapter. The fraternity said all of the people at the party were over 21. Kappa Sigma read a statement from the ATO member which said he had not been drinking at their house.
The IFC banned alcohol at Kappa Sigma until February 1 and will require 75 percent of the chapter members and pledges to perform five hours of community service by December 19. Kappa Sigma appealed. No hearing date has been set.
"The sanctions imposed are mitigated by the fact that there were so few brothers present in the house and actually responsible for the inappropriate event," Ms. Hardacre said in her ruling.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon
Sigma Alpha Epsilon, already cited by the IFC for serving alcohol to prospective freshmen during visitor's weekend in April, pleaded guilty to violating an ODSUE suspension relating to that event. The Judicial Committee also found the fraternity guilty of violating a Department of Athletics ban on recruiting freshman athletes before Rush begins.
SAE has been suspended by the dean's office and prohibited from taking part in Rush. If that ban is lifted, the IFC ruled that the fraternity may not recruit until 6pm on the Saturday that Rush commences, missing the kickoff on Killian Court, and may not host candidates over night on that day. The fraternity appealed this decision immediately. The IFC also fined SAE $1,000.
"The Review Board is concerned that Sigma Alpha Epsilon is becoming an 'habitual offender,' but feels that this particular transgression does not warrant the most stringent measures," Ms. Hardacre said.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 12, 1998.