The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 40.0°F | A Few Clouds and Breezy

Pledging Is an Issue

Like every member of the MIT community, I was horrified to learn of the death of a Fiji pledge due to alcohol poisoning. However, the shortsighted explanations for his death given by many of the leaders in the MIT community were far more disturbing. For example, President Charles M. Vest pointed out that alcohol is used on "virtually every campus in America." Undergraduate Association President Dedric A. Carter '98 said, "MIT students work hard and play hard." Fenway House President Christopher H. Beland '98 asserted that the incident "could have happened at several fraternities it could have happened in a dorm." Only Dean Robert M. Randolph recognized that "the problem is more complex than just a drinking problem within the fraternity system."

This is not a simple case of peer pressure. By definition, pledging means that you will do what is necessary to become a brother; in this way, brothers are not your peers. Illustrating their authority over the pledges, one brother said that the brothers are "like your parents." If your professor suggested that you do 50 calculus problems by Friday, you would be more likely to do it than if a classmate suggested it, wouldn't you? Because you have decided to become an engineer, you call upon all your endurance, maybe pull an all-nighter, in order to finish those problems. I believe the same is true in this case; it took endurance to stomach the sixteen straight shots of vodka needed to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.41 percent. When you want to join a group, you push your limits, and the pledge pushed his limits too far. Of course, you can always choose not to drink. I didn't drink when I was pledging. however, it is outrageous to suggest that the fact that the deceased was a pledge in a fraternity is not a key issue in this tragedy.

James J. O'Donnell '00