ZBT, ET face public hearingBy Ben Stanger
Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) and Epsilon Theta (ET), the two MIT fraternities located in Brookline, survived an anti-fraternity movement by town residents when the Board of Selectmen renewed their lodging house licenses at a public hearing Dec. 17.
The selectmen made the renewal of ZBT's license contingent upon several restrictions, including a limit of two "major social events" per year, with a 12:30 am curfew. Officers of ZBT and ET said they considered this requirement unfair and unjustified.
Some Brookline citizens had called for the revocation of the lodging licenses of all fraternities located in the town. Many districts in the Boston area require fraternities to obtain a lodging license before inhabiting a single dwelling.
Two Northeastern University fraternities fell before the citizen's movement. One lost its license a week before the hearing, and the Brookline Board of Selectmen revoked the license of Nu Epsilon Zeta (NEZ) at the public hearing. The Northeastern fraternities had neglected community complaints for several years, according to Robert A. Sherwood, associate dean for student affairs.
Sherwood expressed concern over the similarity between the actions taken against the Northeastern fraternities and problems faced by several MIT fraternities in Boston. The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) and Back Bay condominium owners have complained strongly about noise and public drinking of MIT fraternities, Sherwood said.
Last semester, Pi Lambda Phi, Delta Upsilon and Delta Tau Delta faced the prospect of a hearing before the Boston Lodging License Committee. These fraternities will probably not have to make a public appearance to renew their licenses, according to Robert E. Jones, NABB-MIT liason and advisor for the Pi Lambda Phi and Tau Epsilon Phi fraternities.
Restrictions imposed on ZBT
Sherwood and Mark Ertel, advisor to fraternities and independent living groups, represented the MIT administration at the hearing, which Skip Sesling, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, conducted. Legal councillors from MIT and the fraternities themselves attended the hearing, but were not needed, Sherwood said.
ZBT President Samuel P. Levine '86 represented his fraternity, presenting a petition signed by over 210 community members supporting the renewal of ZBT's lodging license.
The community voiced several complaints against the fraternity at the meeting, however, including excessive noise and appearance of the house.
The Board of Selectmen made the renewal of ZBT's license contingent upon several restrictions, including:
O+ A limit of two major social events per year. Music must stop at 11:30 pm. At 12:30 am, all guests must leave and the bar must close. All alcohol must be legally distributed.
O+ The fraternity cannot take in boarders from other schools.
O+ The property must be kept clean, and the fraternity must install a new fence around its property.
O+ The undergraduate officers of the fraternity must meet regularly with community members and an annual hearing must be held to review the fraternity's behavior.
Sherwood said at the hearing that MIT would accept the conditions the Selectmen wished to impose on the fraternity. The restrictions are reasonable with the exception of the two-party limit, he added. The Board of Selectmen must define what it means by a limit of "two major social events," he continued.
Students object to restrictions
Some of the Board's restrictions are without foundation, according to ZBT Treasurer Joseph S. Zahavi '87. He said the "punishment" of limiting ZBT to two parties per year was inconsistent with the fraternity's behavior.
Although many members of the fraternity felt that the situation could have been much worse, Zahavi said he feared the restrictions will never be removed if they are allowed to stay in place now.
"I thought it was harsh for them [ZBT]," said ET Lieutenant Commander Robert P. Gauthier '87. It appeared that the Board of Selectmen had drawn up the restrictions before the hearing, he added. "They were ready to drop these on somebody."
Zahavi shared the opinion that the Board of Selectmen backs the movement to remove fraternities from Brookline. "I feel [Chairman Sesling] is spearheading a campaign against fraternities ... as a political stepping stone." Holding the hearing during finals week was "sneaky," Zahavi added.
ET President Heather L. Brooks '86 did a "spectacular job" defending ET's right to stay in its Brookline building, Sherwood said. She presented a petition signed by neighbors, several of which stood up to give their support of the living group. There were no complaints about ET, Gauthier said.
ZBT hasn't decided upon a strategy for fighting the ruling yet, Zahavi said, although the fraternity plans to look into the legality of the restrictions.
The Board of Selectmen revoked the license of the Northeastern fraternity NEZ at the hearing following a "gruelling cross-examination" which included charges of child harassment, drinking in public and excessive noise, Sherwood said. Gauthier mentioned a NEZ party last year which was so unruly the police were called in.
Both Northeastern houses have until th end of the semester to find new houses.
The hearing showed a qualitative difference between the MIT fraternities and their Northeastern counterparts, Sherwood said. He believed it is both a "problem and benefit" that the academic pressure at MIT does not allow time for excessive behavior.