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NABB pressures frats

By David P. Hamilton

First in a series exploring the relationship between MIT independent living groups and their Boston neighbors.

The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) has recently informed MIT that it may take legal measures against MIT fraternities and independent living groups (ILG's) because of the behavior of MIT students in the Back Bay, according to Mark Ertel, advisor to fraternities and independent living groups.

The NABB, an influential community association whose membership includes at least one Boston city councilman, is one of the oldest and most respected neighborhood organizations in Boston, according to Robert A. Sherwood, associate dean for student affairs.

The group wields a significant amount of political clout, Sherwood said. He cited cases in<>

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which the organization has successfully blocked condominium and business construction in the Back Bay.

The NABB's jurisdiction covers the area bounded by Charlesgate Rd., the Fenway, Beacon Hill and the Boston Commons, he added. Sherwood emphasized that the NABB's complaints were directed at the fraternities and ILG's to the east of Massachusetts Avenue.

The majority of the NABB's complaints were about behavior that is generally associated with fraternities, Sherwood said. Neighbors were especially concerned about public drinking, loud stereos and frisbee playing in the streets, he said.

Ertel claimed the use of alcohol lies at the root of every complaint. The fact that 65 percent of MIT students are legally underage only further aggravates<>

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the NABB, he said.

The NABB's complaints have recently become an issue because the demographics of the Back Bay have changed, Ertel said. As recently as five years ago, the majority of Back Bay residences were rented to tenants in the same age group as college students, he said.

Since that time, however, most of the area's apartments have been converted into condominiums, Ertel continued. Student attitudes and behavior are not as acceptable to the older, more highly professional neighborhood, he said.

The issue of fraternity and ILG conduct has been more heated recently, Sherwood said, but the situation has always existed. "I've seen the behavior of fraternity students get better and better each year," he said. "The condo owners' tolerance is just lower than it used to be."

One recent NABB complaint involved a Boston city councilman, Michael McCormack, who claimed that members of an MIT fraternity trespassed while running across his roof last September, breaking a skylight in the process, according to Tinley Anderson '86, chairman of the InterFraternity Council (IFC).

"He [McCormack] made some kind of threatening comment at the time like `we want these guys out of here,' " Anderson said.

The NABB wants to curtail any problems to avoid taking direct action, Anderson said. The NABB made it clear to the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs (ODSA) that it would act unless MIT resolved the situation, he added.

"The NABB was making it clear [around the end of September] that action needed to be taken or they would go elsewhere for a solution," he said.

The NABB would like to see MIT control its fraternities, Anderson said. "They seem to have a poor understanding that MIT doesn't do that."

"Our fraternities are bound by state and local laws," Ertel said. The NABB expects MIT to exercise more jurisdiction over its off-campus students although there is no legal justification for such control. "Our lawyers have told us that," he said.

The situation is made worse by the manner in which Boston University (BU) controls its students, Sherwood said. "The BU police will respond to neighbors' calls about BU students in apartments, and in fact have arrested their own students," he said.

BU enforces a code of conduct that students must uphold "when the student's conduct might affect the standing of the University," according to the text of the code.

"BU's stance is that their students are controlled, so any complaints [against BU students] must be MIT students mistaken as BU students," Sherwood said. "Quite often the reverse is true."

"It's not only an MIT problem," Anderson said. Neighbors often mistake Fisher, Emerson or BU students for MIT fraternity members when a disturbance occurs, he said. "They tend to assume that it's always the fraternities that are causing the problems," he added.

Next: MIT and IFC plans for action.