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IFC Trials: a Model for Self-Governance

The recent rush trials of the Interfraternity Council Judicial Committee went unnoticed for most students. At an institution where harassment and discipline incidents often generate immeasurable controversy and discontent, the IFC should be lauded for a judicial system that works in a just and timely fashion. Although there are legitimate questions about the system's ability to discourage rush violations, the open and generally fair process should be modeled for other Institute dispute resolution processes.

The most impressive aspect of the IFC's system is its continuing open nature. Charges, trials, and sanctions are brought, conducted, and reported in public. The individuals and living groups convicted of rush violations must publicly affirm or deny responsibility for actions. Unlike other disciplinary proceedings at MIT, living groups are held responsible by their peers; an example of self-governance at its best.

The IFC system also remains principled and equitable, and continues to encourage informal resolution of disputes between living groups. Not every living group may be entirely happy with the disposition of their individual cases, but the fact that only five of 13 convicted groups will likely appeal indicates that the system's constituents do find justice. Even the IFC President was not sheltered from scrutiny: His living group was charged and plead guilty to a rush violation in which he was implicated.

Although the IFC system processes rush violations efficiently, the ability of the system to discourage violation remains suspect. Year after year, living groups violate long-standing and well-known rules like the prohibition against bad-mouthing or hiding freshmen. Some living groups even budget for fines as part of their rush budgets. It seems that the punitive actions of the IFC Judicial Committee are regularly being ignored. Because some living groups fail to learn the lessons of past sanctions, the IFC should explore other methods to ensure that the living groups do not repeatedly violate rush rules.

In the final analysis, the success or failure of judicial systems will be determined by their ability to enforce rules and dispense justice in an efficient, open, and objective manner.

Reasonable concerns notwithstanding, the IFC's judicial process seems to meet this standard and should serve as a model for student judicial self-governance.