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Fiji Loses Dormitory License, Must Close House This Spring

Wan Yusof Wan Morshidi -- The Tech
The Boston Licensing Board revoked Phi Gamma Delta's fraternity license until August. The boardUs decision will take effect on Jan. 15.

By Douglas E.Heimburger
Associate News Editor

The Boston Licensing Board has suspended Phi Gamma Delta's dormitory license for seven months and indefinitely suspended the use of alcohol at the fraternity.

The board last week punished Fiji for serving alcohol to Scott S. Krueger '01, causing him to go into a coma, and blocking emergency exits. The board also reprimanded MITfor its apparent lack of control over the fraternity.

"MIThas a responsibility to their admitted students"to act in a parental capacity, said Commissioner Daniel F. Pokaski. The decision is meant to send a message to MITadministrators and to the fraternity that better control is needed.

The board's unanimous decision revokes Fiji's dormitory license, which allows students to live in the building, effective Jan. 15. However, the fraternity will be allowed to renew its license on Aug. 15.

Although residents may be able to move back in August, the board suspended the use or possession of any alcohol on the premises indefinitely.

The alumni group that owns the fraternity, Malcolm Cotton Brown Corp., will be able to petition the board to allow Fiji to serve alcohol, but not until Aug. 15, 2000. The Phi Gamma Delta national fraternity pledged to become alcohol free by 2000 following the Krueger incident.

Finally, the board required that MIT submit its results of an internal investigation into the incident and its plan for overseeing all fraternities by June 1.

"We have to close this place down because we have no reasonable assurance that they will act responsibly," said Commissioner Joseph I. Mulligan.

"MITcannot say that they do not have responsibility over frat houses, when indeed they do," Pokaski said.

Action based on limited evidence

The board expressed its dismay frequently during the hearing at the lack of information available to it because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

"What we know about is what we see in the police reports,"saidChairman Ellen E. Rooney. At a hearing held three weeks ago, police investigators refused to comment on most aspects of the case because of the the ongoing grand jury investigation.

Lawyers from the firm of Meehan, Boyle & Cohen, P.C., working for Krueger's family, submitted several hundred of pages of documentation regarding "hazing and alcohol abuses withinMIT's fraternity system."

"Based on its past experience with this particular licensee, it seems clear that complete revocation of the dormitory license is in order,"continued the letter.

However, the commissioners did not have time to review the contents of the documents, which included reports of alleged hazing at PhiLambda Pi by Scott R. Velazquez G and Robert Plotkin '93, Rooney said.

"I must assume there was some sort of rite of passage for members of the fraternity which required the drinking of alcohol,"Mulligan said.

The board attacked MIT as a source of many of the problems. "Any university that finds ways to look elsewhere"when incidents occur "must be held responsible" for actions, Mulligan said. "I believe MIThas looked the other way."

The Institute places the blame on Malcolm Cotton Brown whenever incidents occur, in order to limit its own liability, Mulligan said.

Mulligan also expressed his displeasure at MITfor failing to begin an internal investigation.

"I think MITneeds to give serious thought to using fraternities as housing" when there is not enough housing available on campus, Rooney said.

Before agreeing to suspend Fiji's license on Jan. 15, the board considered a different proposal by Rooney, which would have called for a complete review in June but would have allowed the fraternity to remain open through the school year.

Officials disappointed with results

MIT administrators who attended the hearing expressed their disappointment with the decision in an impromptu news conference.

"Ihave very mixed feelings," said Dean ofStudents andUndergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams. "I'm sad that they were unable to delay a decision until the end of the [criminal] investigation."

MIThas not begun an internal investigation into the Krueger incident because of its longstanding policy not to conduct inquiries while criminal investigations are occurring. "We have to keep the civil rights of the students and the criminal investigation in mind,"Williams said.

The message the board is sending through the decision was already sent three weeks ago, Williams said. "The [Interfraternity Council] on its own has already set some very strict new alcohol polices."

IFCPresident Iddo Gilon '98 said he feels that displacing students in the middle of the year was horrific. The board rushed to a decision by not waiting for the end of the investigation, he said.

However, the two-year ban on alcohol is appropriate, given the circumstances, Gilon added.

The Krueger family said, through their attorney, Leo V. Boyle, that the family was "very pleased with the courage of the licensing board."

The family is considering many options, including lawsuits, to prevent the repeat of accidents like the one that led to Krueger's death, Boyle said. "If a civil lawsuit would aid in that goal, then that is on the potential agenda."

Deans pledge to find housing

Williams pledged to find alternative housing for the 37 students currently living at Fiji. "We'll make every effort to keep them together," she said.

"We're not sure how many Fijis are actually requesting on-campus housing,"said Program Director for Residential Life Philip H.Bernard. So far, less than 10 residents have submitted requests to move on campus.

MIT is required to provide housing for the 11 freshman in the house, but there is a "legal, if not a moral" obligation to accommodate all of them on campus, Williams said.

In determining where to house the Fiji residents, administrators will consider both the lifestyle of Fiji and that of on-campus residences, Bernard said. Off-campus residences such as Huntington Hall, which MITused as a temporary dormitory several years ago, are also being considered as potential living spaces for Fiji residents.

Current residents will not be moved around to create a contiguous space for the Fiji residents, Bernard said. "Nobody has even said anything close to inconveniencing other students" by the move, he said.

However, Bernard noted that the current crowding level of 136 will likely rise in the spring as a result of the Fiji move.