Rush Issues Larger Than Alcohol Debate
The debate over a dry Residence and Orientation Week is not about succumbing to administration pressures, criticizing Greek social life, or about the general use of alcohol. Rather, it is about focusing on real issues facing the MIT Greek community today. The Interfraternity Council has the responsibility to facilitate a discussion on these issues so that the IFC community as a whole can come to an informed decision. The subject matter is twofold: The first part is dry rush and the second is the social policy during dead week.
Current rush policy states that as of Saturday night, visitors and members of age may consume alcohol. A completely dry rush would entail that no alcohol could be served during any rush event. All nationals are on record endorsing rush events to be completely free of alcohol. Most have adopted this as an official policy. The National Interfraternity Conference unanimously supports a completely dry rush. One disturbing fact is that many nationals are looking out to catch chapters breaking national rush rules so that they can be sanctioned - and MIT Independent Living Groups are not excluded from the national's scrutiny.
An overwhelming number of other Greek systems host a completely dry rush. Some groups may claim that since these national organizations already supply a guideline to their individual chapters, there is no reason to make this an MIT policy, giving leeway to those ILGs whose nationals do not have such policies. However, many houses already hold a completely dry rush on their own, so what would be the consequence of making this an IFC rush policy and taking a stride towards creating a model IFC on this campus?
The administration and ILGs are concerned that rushing freshmen will give the wrong impression as to what a "fraternity" is all about - referring to the different roles that alcohol plays in each ILG. In our ILGs' constitutions, alcohol is not mentioned. Instead, they stress terms like brotherhood, sisterhood, friendship, honor, scholarship, and service. Some of these constitutions were written more than a century ago, and while today's times may be different and our society has changed, the foundations on which our organizations have not changed. Perhaps it is time to discuss and reevaluate what being a member of a fraternity or sorority is all about and what its current foundations depend upon.
The second issue deals with the IFC dead week party policy. The main concerns to IFC and the welfare of the ILGs rise from existing community relations problem. The mid-week parties of dead week violate the IFC "Community Relations Guidelines" and spirit by having large and frequent social events which disturb other Boston residents. The "IFC Community Relations Bylaws for Sunday-Thursday" state that no noise and disturbances should be heard outside of the house after 10 p.m. However, at MIT, parties do not seem to start until after 10 p.m. And would it be possible to contain an open party in late summer? Unlike the "Wednesday night clubs" or "Thursday night clubs," these parties are impossible to contain. An overflow of party-going crowd tends to overload the neighborhood with people and noise at hours viewed unreasonable by permanent Boston residents. The increased frequencies of these parties tends to create an increased number of incidents.
We have already seen the consequence of breaking our community relations guidelines. Three years ago, an entire Beacon Street block was put on a one month social probation because of overwhelming numbers of noise complaints during rush and dead week. Some local residents complain that they have to leave their houses for that week because of these circumstances. The Boston Licensing Board banned alcohol from a Beacon Street ILG as a means of quieting them down.
Complaints are being logged directly to the licensing board and city council members which have put houses at risk of losing their lodging licenses. Public perception and the Greek community's image to the Back Bay and to MIT are damaged by these incidents. When one house is pointed out for misconduct, the community can not differentiate between a good and bad ILG. Our conduct as a Greek community, not as individual living groups, ultimately decides how we reflect to the community.
Administrative officials such as Dean of Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams and Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Travis R. Merritt note that significant proportions of freshmen who pledge do not participate in academic R/O including academic program open houses such as Concourse, Experimental Studies Group, Integrated Studies Program, and other academic and faculty events. Many may think these activities should be optional and not impact our R/O experience.
Some MIT administrators are campaigning for freshmen to live on campus their freshmen year. This is where their concerns become our concerns. We know the ILGs do not want MIT to switch to a spring rush system. On the other hand, we don't know if there is anything we can do to improve our attendance, or if we care enough. Again, this is a topic which should be discussed in some sort of forum.
We encourage members of IFC and of the general undergraduate community who are interested in these proceedings to come to President's Council, sit in on committee discussions, and play an active participatory role in solving these problems. It is up to us as responsible members of the MIT Greek community to discuss these issues and choose a method of action so that we know that we that we care about Greek life and the Greek community at MIT.
Iddo Gilon '98
Vice President of Activity Organization