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More than two-thirds of entering freshmen had expressed housing preferences by noon Monday either by phone or by filling out cards enclosed in the residence guide, allaying fears that many fraternities would not have sufficient time to recruit candidates for vacant units.
When early returns on the cards were sparse, a telephone campaign was mounted and a flurry of responses was received in the past two weeks. Orientation starts August 26, with rush scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 29. Before then, fraternities, sororities and independent living groups (FSILGs) are barred from contacting freshmen who have not specifically expressed an interest in them.
FSILGs are also considering candidates' applications for the position of resident graduate advisor. All ILGs will be required to have one in the fall. The policy was announced two weeks ago by Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind Williams. Interfraternity Council (IFC) president Duane Dreger applauded the policy but expressed reservations about the timing.
"I believe it will alleviate many of the concerns that both parents and entering freshmen have with the FSILG system," he said. "I do wish that the timing of the announcement was better, as many of the FSILG residents and officers are not in the Cambridge/Boston area to deal with the sudden implementation of the program. However, from feedback I have been receiving, many of the FSILGs are moving forward with their searches for RAs, and I believe that it will not be as difficult to have 100 percent participation as initially feared."
"We are all struggling to make positive, mutually supportive changes in our residential and learning environment," President Charles M. Vest said. "Tragedy has focused us on the need to enhance what is best about our system and to eliminate its flaws. The nation is looking to us to exert leadership in building academic community and to forthrightly address dangerous drinking. Students, faculty and administrators must band together to accomplish this."
In another development, the alumni group that owns the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house has been told that MIT will not support an application for a dormitory license, ending the chapter's hopes of becoming active next semester.
As of Monday noon, 471 men and 274 women had filled out the cards, including 138 men who checked the "all" box and 144 others who chose only fraternities. The IFC estimates that most fraternities have 60-80 candidates.
Attendance at summer rush parties has been average to disappointing. Delta Upsilon and Theta Xi held parties in Boston last weekend while other fraternities hosted events in Washington and New York. A few parties in other cities had to be canceled due to lack of interest.
Some rush chairs have said questions centered on alcohol policy and MIT's response to the death of freshman Scott Krueger last fall. The freshmen seemed satisfied when told of the resident advisors, alcohol awareness programs and other reforms in the rush process.
Rush takes place a day later than in previous years. It will be preceded by a Residence Midway at the DuPont Athletic Center in which allï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½living groups may participate. Each group -- FSILGs and residence halls alike -- will have a table manned by current residents to answer questions and provide information for incoming freshmen.
In addition to Phi Gamma Delta, one other fraternity has been suspended from recruiting freshmen. Sigma Alpha Epsilon lost its rush privileges for serving alcohol to prospective freshmen during Campus Preview Weekend. Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates said SAE's status was under discussion with its alumni corporation and current members.
Rush chairs were taken aback when Dean Williams told them on July 2 that resident advisors would be required in all FSILGs. Prior to that, a pilot program was under consideration, even though President Vest had announced the all-encompassing policy last December.
"We recently reviewed our overall progress in enhancing our housing system and orientation, and concluded that we should stick to the original time schedule announced last December for placing resident advisors in the FSILGs," Dr. Vest said. "This will serve us all better than the reduced, experimental approach, so additional budget was allocated to enable all houses to start this fall."
FSILGs that do not hire a resident advisor by September will be required to be alcohol-free until they do. Houses that do not fulfill the requirement at all may be barred from rushing or housing freshmen in 1999.
The FSILGs were encouraged to recruit resident advisors from among alumni/ae attending either MIT or some other graduate school in the area, or contact their national organization (if they belong to one) to help identify young alumni/ae in the area from other chapters.
While the decision to return to the original time frame was made by the administration, President Vest noted that students played a major role in discussions that led to the adoption of the policy last December. He said it was "unfortunate" that the timetable was readjusted after graduation, but the decision was made "in the best interests" of the community and the FSILGs.
"I deeply believe that this is a positive opportunity, not an imposition," said President Vest. "The timing is tight, but we must all work together for success in creating a stable, supportive housing system."
President Vest said the decision was not made at the suggestion of the Boston Licensing Board or the Suffolk County district attorney's office, which is investigating the circumstances surrounding the alcohol-related death of Mr. Krueger last September after an informal social event at the Phi Gamma Delta house at 28 The Fenway in Boston.
"It is the MIT plan established last year after broad discussion," President Vest said. "Many factors were considered, including attractiveness of the system to parents and new students, and strong, timely progress toward our housing goals."
PHI GAMMA DELTA
Dean Williams cited the ongoing grand jury investigation into Mr. Krueger's death in notifying the Malcolm Cotton Brown Corp., the alumni corporation which owns Phi Gamma Delta house, that MIT would not support an application for a dormitory license in August. The Boston Licensing Board revoked the license for seven months in December, effective January 15, 1998.
In a letter to Roderic Taft of Malcolm Cotton Brown, Dean Williams wrote: "Among the important factors that we have in mind is the impact on our students who are members of Phi Gamma Delta. With the uncertainty surrounding the continuance of the grand jury, their housing could be disrupted again in the forthcoming school year if they were allowed to return to the house and the grand jury's decision, when it is eventually issued, led to the house being closed to residents again, whether temporarily or permanently."
"The house corporation has worked closely with MIT administration since Scott's tragic death to look after the welfare of the current members and do what could be done to continue a proud 109-year history of Fiji at MIT," said Mr. Taft. "We are, of course, interested in continuing that tradition if possible, but we are sensitive to MIT's broader concerns and understand MIT's current position."
Dean Williams offered to explore the possibility of making the fraternity available as a housing option to graduate students or other members of the community who are not undergraduates "to provide income to meet operating and other expenses related to the house."
Mr. Taft said the corporation was inclined to accept this offer. "We're hoping a year from now the legal situation will clarify itself and we can go back to being an active fraternity, with MIT's support," he said. "In the interim, we need to do something to maintain our financial situation." He noted that a dormitory license would be needed to house graduate students and said he expected MIT to support that application.
Phi Gamma Delta was suspended by MIT last September and all but three members were relocated in January. The three upperclassmen were permitted to remain as caretakers.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 15, 1998.