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Campus Police Accountability

The Nov. 14 incident at Theta Chi, in which a Boston University freshman was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning, demonstrates that the MIT Campus Police have once again withheld information from the MIT community. Although it is not clear whether any crimes were committed at Theta Chi, and the Boston Police were the first to respond to the incident, the Campus Police bear a legal and moral responsibility to keep the MIT community informed of incidents that may affect them. To date, the Campus Police have not fulfilled that responsibility.

The Campus Police have taken steps to give the appearance of keeping the community informed about crimes that happen here. The police log, which must be released to community newspapers by law, is published regularly in both The Tech and Tech Talk. The log, along with other information about other security issues, is also sent over e-mail to departments and living groups on campus. The Campus Police also compile and disseminate a mid-year and annual report detailing crime statistics.

The past few weeks have been a time of high publicity for the Campus Police, with an ongoing advertising campaign to support the much-touted Cops in Shops program. The Campus Police Department is happy to go public about a new program or a public service project. But when an incident causes controversy or brings damaging media attention, it's another story altogether.

For example, the Campus Police chose not to include the Theta Chi incident in the published police log - nor did the Campus Police send out any e-mail on the subject to the community. For whatever reason, the Campus Police did not deem it necessary to publicly mention their involvement. In the past, incidents have been excluded from the police log or the annual crime report, by virtue of the fact that they occurred "off-campus". For example, the recent assault of a Wellesley student at 240 Albany St. over Columbus Day weekend was considered off-campus, and was not reflected in the Campus Police's crime statistics.

The Campus Security Act of 1990 mandates that the campus police departments nationwide provide their communities with full and accurate records of crimes that happen on campus. The act also enumerates the specific crimes, including liquor law and drug abuse violations, that the police must publish statistics for. According to the Campus Security Act of 1990, the term "campus" includes any building or property owned by student organizations recognized by the institution.

For the purposes of the law, then, fraternity houses are considered on-campus, even in the case when they are not owned by the university or physically located on their campus. The Campus Police Department is thus required to keep track of incidents at MIT fraternities and to include this data in its regular reports.

A glance at any police log, however, reveals a paucity of incidents at fraternities - and it's not that crime doesn't occur in fraternities, or even that the CPs are never called to respond there. In the case of Scott S. Krueger '01, the Campus Police claimed to have simply forgotten to include the incident in the police log. It seems more likely that they have simply become accustomed to not reporting incidents in fraternities.

The Theta Chi incident shows that the Campus Police need to do a better job of keeping the community informed. Regardless of the legality of remaining silent on what happens in fraternities, the Campus Police have a responsibility to the community to keep us informed of what crimes have occurred on campus.