MIT investigates Lobdell party stabbings
By Andrea Lamberti
The stabbing of two Boston-area men at a reggae dance party in Lobdell Court Saturday night, along with concern about how the party's organizers registered the party, have prompted the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs to investigate the circumstances surrounding the party.
The goal of the investigation is to determine exactly what happened at the party, whether MIT party policy could have prevented the situation that led to the stabbing, "whether we need to make changes in [the] procedures, and whether our procedures were followed in this instance," Dean for Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith said.
Associate Dean for Student Affairs James R. Tewhey is conducting the investigation, Smith said, and has been interviewing students involved with the party
this week. Tewhey did not return repeated phone calls yesterday and Wednesday.
Smith, Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin and Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 have been discussing the implications of the stabbing at the party, Glavin said. Because they have not completed their discussion of the incident, Glavin did not want to comment on the nature of their talks or on possible changes in party policy.
Last weekend's stabbing was the third violent incident to occur in connection with a party in the Julius A. Stratton '23 Student Center. In October 1989, a Boston man pulled a revolver on another man in the parking lot behind Kresge Auditorium and fired a shot, but no one was injured. The man had been turned away from a party in the Student Center. And in February 1987, a
Roxbury man stabbed and killed a Northeastern University freshman at an Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity party in the Student Center.
Glavin said she has "had some discussion with the student affairs office [and Dickson]" on these types of incidents and "there needs to be more discussion on that. I have my own ideas as to how we should handle these functions; the discussion obviously surrounds that."
Any possible changes in the party policy will be determined by the outcome of the Dean's Office's investigation, and by the discussions among Smith, Glavin, and Dickson. Smith said, "If we conclude [the stabbing] wasn't the fault of the policy, then the policy won't change. We're not out to stop parties or make them
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less desirable; we'd like to see them succeed."
The 1987 shooting incident prompted Glavin to change the closing time of parties in the Student Center from 2 am to 12:30 am, which was extended to 1 am last September. Glavin said it is still too early to say if changes of this sort will be made. She did say, though, "We've had a relatively good year this year."
Glavin said the police investigation of the stabbing itself has focused on the "possibility of a Cambridge group of individuals." She said that leads in the investigation "are focusing even more on this group; investigators appear to be on the right track."
The way in which Saturday's party was registered with the Residence and Campus Activities Office has already prompted a change in the party registration policy, said Susanna C. Hinds, director of campus activities.
Under a policy which becomes effective today, five people will be designated by the president of each student group president to register parties with the Residence and Campus Activities Office.
The previous policy, under which Steven O. Bertram '92 registered Saturday's party, required the student registering the party to present an MIT identification card. The Residence and Campus Activities Office also checked that the group was recognized by the ASA, and that there were no scheduling conflicts.
Saturday's party was organized by Bertram and William T. Drake '89, who head a party and disc jockey service called High Top Fade.
Bertram registered the party as a Black Student Union event. The BSU was not associated with the party, BSU President Dike N. Ahanotu '93 said, and Bertram is not a member of the BSU, he added. The BSU had discussed sponsoring the event with Bertram, but had not officially decided to do so.
Hinds, with whom Bertram registered the party, confirmed that Bertram put "BSU on the party reservation form and on his party request form." She added, "He said that the party was a BSU event. As far as the BSU is concerned, he's an unpaid member. . . . We had no reason to believe he was not a member."
Hinds said the ASA, which provides Hinds with lists of ASA-recognized student groups, "will certainly [be] much more aggressive" in keeping its membership and officer lists up to date. Hinds said this decision was not related to Saturday's party: "The ASA has been tracking down groups all term," she said.
In preparation for this weekend, MIT is providing all student groups and living groups with lists of prospective freshmen, or prefrosh, coming to campus, so that they will be able to attend parties and event organizers will be able to check their identification, Hinds said.
This action comes after numerous high school students reportedly gained access to the party on Saturday.
"Technically the Institute requires college identification" for entrance to parties, Hinds said. Event organizers this weekend will be able to check the names of prefrosh at the door against a list provided by MIT.
Hinds, Tewhey and Glavin met with representatives from dormitories, student activities and independent living groups to inform them of the lists on Wednesday, Hinds said.
Glavin said they focused on safety issues at the meeting, including lighting and access control. They stressed that "the requirements for entrance to any party" should be followed and encouraged students to take advantage of Campus Police officers working at parties this weekend. Additionally, Glavin addressed the issue of keeping a minimum level of light, in part as a response to the dim lighting at Saturday's party.
Estimates of the number of
high school students -- and MIT students -- in attendance at the High Top Fade party varied. Glavin said, "I had heard that there was a high percentage of high school students, and that's part of the access control problem."
Lamont L. Dozier '94, who attended the party, said no more than 12 or 13 MIT students attended the party, and that the largest number of party-goers came from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. Drake disputed those numbers, though, saying that if high school students were inside the party, they numbered no more than one-fourth of those in attendance.
Drake said there were at least two people monitoring the door the entire evening, and that some people were turned away either by party organizers or the Campus Police. He said that at times, though, the crowd around the door became large enough for people to get past the identification check. Drake also said he heard that some people were going into the party through the third-floor entrance to Lobdell.
After visiting Northeastern University student Damion Halfkenny, the victim of the first, more severe stabbing, in the hospital, Drake recounted the circumstances surrounding the incident. According to Drake, Halfkenny was stabbed after approaching a group of people who had surrounded a friend of his. After one person bumped into a member of this group, "a guy swung a punch at [Halfkenny, who] swung back, [and then] they were fighting. While he was fighting . . . someone stabbed him in the back," Drake said.
Executive Director of Middlesex Emergency Medical Services Anthony Fucaloro said that Halfkenny is currently in stable condition at Beth Israel Hospital."
Fucaloro also said that five victims were reported to the EMS, but three refused treatment at the scene. Fucaloro did not know if they had been stabbed as well.