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Unanswered Questions at Fiji

It goes without saying that the death of Phi Gamma Delta pledge Scott S. Krueger '01 represents a tragedy beyond measure. Along with every other member of the MIT community, members of The Tech's staff share the grief of the family, and our hearts go out to them in this hour.

Krueger's hospitalization and death, brought on by alcohol poisoning, has already raised serious concerns both about drinking throughout the MIT community and the system of Greek life. Although details of the tragedy are still unfolding at this time, Krueger's death makes it more clear that the issue of underage drinking at fraternity houses demands more than a typical, bureaucratic response from MIT's administration. The system itself is broken, and the Institute should take full responsibility.

The Fiji incident has brought MIT's drinking problem before the national press, with CNN and ABC's Good Morning America presenting stories on the hospitalization. It is often said that underage drinking at MIT is minimal compared to drinking at other schools. This accident demonstrates once and for all that the Institute has just as serious a problem as Louisiana State University, where a Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge died in a similar incident a month ago.

Even if there is a wider, national problem with drinking, MIT should be the exception. This university is known worldwide for its seriousness of purpose and the high quality of its education. That such an accident could occur at MIT should serve as a warning to the entire community that the Institute has a serious, systemic problem that needs an equally serious remedy.

Considering the gravity of the situation, the behavior of the MIT administration to date has been weak to the point of absurdity. In its first press release on the subject on Saturday, the MIT News Office implied uncertainty about "whether alcohol was involved," in spite of the fact that Krueger had a blood alcohol level over 0.410 percent. President Charles M. Vest's statement to the press seemed to shift blame away from MIT. Vest blamed the problem on the use of alcohol that he said exists on "virtually every campus in America." Furthermore, while the Dean's Office is sending a letter to every parent of an MIT undergraduate, no letter or statement of any kind has been made to MIT students themselves. While the Dean's Office has proved abundantly ready to deliver platitudes on national and local television stations, MIT has conspicuously kept students in the dark.

The behavior of the administration seems narrowly calculated to serve its own interests, rather than to further the interest of the community in due process. MIT's internal disciplinary procedures demand that incidents under investigation remain confidential. We do not take issue with this system. However, the treatment of this incident thus far falls into a dangerous pattern. The administration has a vested interest in maintaining the fraternity system without change due to the structure of its undergraduate housing system. This makes any discussion of the systemic problems at hand much more difficult. The community is about to enter a serious discussion about what went wrong at Fiji; we deserve more than the standard run-around from the Dean's Office. The administration needs to come clean over the next few days; our community deserves nothing less than a full and accurate statement of what happened at Fiji.

Information is only part of the solution. In addition, the administration needs to propose concrete steps beyond the usual committees and cosmetic alcohol-awareness events. Alcohol policies need to be overhauled, and policies regarding supervision of events at living groups should be re-examined. In general, the Institute should re-evaluate its laissez faire attitude toward what happens in living groups. If this accident was really "off the radar screen," as Randolph indicated, MIT cannot call its housing system safe.

MIT is a world-class institution. President Vest has proposed a "campus-wide introspective dialogue," but our community deserves more than that. We deserve an explanation as to how such a tragic incident could have been allowed to happen at MIT. More importantly, MIT needs to take major steps to curb the problem.