Lack of Judgment at Zeta Psi
Friday's incident at Zeta Psi, in which several underage students were caught trying to purchase a keg, was regrettable. The individuals responsible should have known better than to do something so shortsighted, especially during this sensitive time so soon after the death of Scott S. Krueger '01.
Krueger's death raised serious questions about how underage drinking should be dealt with at MIT. The candlelight vigil last week bore witness to students' concern and grief over the death and provided a good foundation for a real re-examination of the rules and attitudes governing alcohol consumption. The students who purchased the keg in the midst of this period of mourning and re-examination displayed a willful lack of judgment. MIT should hold these students accountable for their actions.
The Zeta Psi incident may also have badly damaged fraternities' relations with the surrounding community. The relationship between fraternities and their neighbors has been uneasy at best. Krueger's death upped the ante and provided more ammunition for community leaders who call fraternities irresponsible and uncontrollable.
The Interfraternity Council and the administration have vowed to change the system to further control the use of alcohol. That step has helped blunt charges that MIT wants to sweep its problems under the rug. Yet the credibility we gained from these statements lasted only a few days. Students can accept the idea that a few Zeta Psi brothers demonstrated exceptionally poor judgement, but Boston and Cambridge residents and city officials may not. They may see the purchase of alcohol by minors as a part of the same pattern that resulted in Krueger's death, and they may not be so forgiving.
In light of the uproar, MIT's decision to suspend the use of alcohol at Zeta Psi was correct, even though there is no evidence that the fraternity condoned the purchases. Chapter officers should make sure that the suspension is obeyed to prevent any further damage to the fraternity's reputation. The fact that the administration is considering disciplinary actions against the brothers responsible also is sensible.
At the same time, however, the administration should not overreact to recent events. The changes MIT began considering last week - addressing endemic problems in MIT's housing system and banning the use of Institute funds for the purchase of alcohol - were sufficient. Not only were these actions appropriate under the circumstances, but by and large they addressed long-standing problems that have needed a solution for years.
But this is not a situation that will benefit from additional legislation. By appearing to accept responsibility for these students' wrongdoing, MIT will lose whatever leverage it has. All the Institute needs to do is vigorously enforce the rules it already has. It also should count on fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups to make sure that no more violations occur.
The organization with the most at stake here is the IFC. The IFCneeds to work to change its members' attitudes about alcohol. Additional problems will do more than simply cause an uproar. Cambridge and Boston are already talking about new legislation on underage drinking. Their patience with these shenanigans is at an end. If we at MIT want to retain the ability to control our own destiny with regard to alcohol policy, we need to demonstrate that each of us is responsible enough to follow the laws that already exist.