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MIT's Alcohol Blame Game

Wesley T. Chan

Sometimes it just makes you wonder what really is happening behind the doors at some fraternity houses. No one outside the individual house really knows what really goes on after the parties, or after the fraternities put forward their best faces during rush to snag all the frosh they can possibly get their hands on.

After the alcohol-induced death of Phi Gamma Delta pledge Scott S. Krueger '01, everyone was quick to realize that we have a major problem plaguing our campus that we need to fix. Both the Interfraternity Council and the Dormitory Council decried the tragedy and banned alcohol from all their events pending a review of their alcohol policies. The administration, for the first time that anyone can remember, has admitted that it wasn't doing enough to curb alcohol abuse on campus and it has unleashed an aggressive series of lifestyle-altering mandates. Among them is the prohibition on purchasing alcohol with Institute funds, as well as the construction of a new dormitory within 34 years. The new dorm will alleviate the housing shortage that has forced the administration to do calculations of how many freshmen need to pledge fraternities and independent living groups so that the dorms won't be overcrowded. This year, that number was 375.

This past weekend, as the wax from the candlelight memorial service for Krueger and Umaer A. Basha '01 was still drying by the Chapel moat, we got a glimpse into how much alcohol was really flowing behind the doors of one fraternity, Zeta Psi. Friday, law enforcement officials stopped a Zeta Psi freshman who allegedly used a poorly faked identification - it apparently still had the word "minor" on it even though the date of birth was changed - to receive a keg on the steps of the fraternity house from a liquor store delivery man. Despite the flaws in the ID, the delivery person allegedly handed over the keg to the freshmen and picked up seven empty kegs from the house.

It is time to admit that beyond the brotherhood rhetoric of some frat houses lies a river of free-flowing booze. It flows so freely that one freshman died because he drank too much. Another freshman is also facing charges of using a fake license to purchase alcohol. Two other residents of Zeta Psi may face charges of underage possession of alcohol charges.

Unfortunately, recent events at Zeta Psi will only restart the campus blame game. Students living in dorms will be quick to point their finger at fraternities saying that they're at fault for providing such unrestrained access to alcohol to their pledges. They'll no doubt ask about the brotherhood and integrity fraternities promote as the cornerstones of their system. Fraternity brothers will be just as quick to say that the problem is as equally severe in the dorms, and that what happened at Fiji or Zeta Psi could have happened in Baker House. Both MIT and the IFC will be quick to condemn Zeta Psi and will probably claim that it was an isolated incident at a single house and that they will investigate and take action if necessary.

Enough is enough. We've heard a bit too much rhetoric lately. Everyone has blamed anybody and everybody they can think of - the administration, the fraternities, and even the liquor stores for not carding enough. We all know that many, if not most fraternities are responsible enough to prevent or deal with most alcohol abuse. I'm also sure everyone on campus knows that this problem is everywhere - in the dorms, in fraternities, at other universities. At the same time, the fact that Krueger's death didn't seem to phase some of the pledges at Zeta Psi is disturbing to say the least.

In short, we're all still a bit angry at what happened to Krueger. Most of that anger has turned to self-examination, and that has led many of us to worry. It could have happened here, we all say, so what can we do about it? I've heard many emotional pleas, a plethora of angry rhetoric, and quite a bit of discussion about the topic. What happened at Zeta Psi will no doubt force us to reconsider what good our discussion and efforts have accomplished. It's time we stop pointing fingers and getting defensive at everything that comes up or we'll get no where. The incident at Zeta Psi isn't just Zeta Psi's problem - it's ours. It is time we stop the rhetorical blame game, take action to fix our problem, and pray earnestly that whatever we do will prevent something like this from happening again.