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SAE Sanctioned for Providing Alcohol to Prospective Student


Indranath Neogy--The Tech
Sigma Alpha Epsilon, at 484 Beacon Street, was suspended for serving alcohol to a prospective student.

By Susan M. Buchman
Staff Reporter

Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been suspended after a prospective student was served alcohol at its house during this year's Campus Preview Weekend.

SAE has been disciplined for the incident by both the Interfraternity Council and the dean's office. The fraternity was initially stripped of its Institute approved housing status and forbidden to possess alcohol on its premises by the IFC. The loss of housing status was overturned, however, upon appeal.

"Serving prefrosh is absolutely unacceptable and monumentally stupid. It puts the whole Institute into jeopardy, and it puts the whole fraternity system into jeopardy," said Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams.

IFC imposes sanctions on SAE

The IFC's Judicial Committee held a hearing on the incident on May 15. SAE was charged with violating four IFC rules. The first was a violation of MIT standards and procedures for students and the rules of the fraternity, sorority and independent living groupsystem which states that "underage persons are not to consume, possess, or be served alcoholic beverages in the house or at an ILG-sponsored activity."

The second charge was a violation of a section of the IFC policy on risk management which reads "No fraternity shall violate the basic principles of good taste or initiate any activity which will be detrimental to the reputation of the MIT community, the Interfraternity Council, or its members."

Charge three was a violation of the same policy, but the specific clause "the FSILG must be certified by IFC for alcohol use."

SAE pleaded not guilty but was found guilty of all charges and sanctions were imposed by the IFC Judicial Committee. SAE's Institute approved housing status was revoked, meaning that freshmen could pledge SAE but could not live in the SAE house for the 1998-1999 academic year.

SAE was also forbidden from having freshman stay overnight during rush. A fine of $2,000 was assessed, using the rate of $500 per violation. SAE was initially to remain completely alcohol free until October 13, 1998; even members of legal age are not allowed to bring alcohol onto the premises.

No members of the fraternity are to be present at the Residence Midway, a new event for Orientation that will feature all other FSILGs. Lastly, the Judicial Committee placed SAE on probation for the upcoming year and recommended that any further inappropriate behavior result in the suspension or expulsion of SAE from the IFC.

In a trial of an Official Body versus an FSILG, the Judicial Committee chair assigns an Investigator to the case. The Investigator's responsibility is to find witnesses and evidence that is pertinent to the case and write a summary of his or her findings to be submitted to the chief investigator, according to the Judicial Committee Bylaws.

Jamie Vinsant '99, the investigator for this case, refused to comment upon the investigation.

Sanctions revised upon appeal

SAE appealed the severity of the sanctions handed down by the Judicial Committee review board. SAE claimed that the fine and the loss of Institute approved housing constituted cruel and unusual punishment, Dorow said.

The appeal was seen by the IFCExecutive Committee, chaired by IFCVice President of Internal Affairs C. Bob Broderick '99 in the absence of IFC president Duane H. Dreger '99. The committee returned Institute approved housing status to the fraternity, as well as the ability to host freshmen overnight during rush.

However, the committee added some additional sanctions. SAE must now remain alcohol free was until June 11, 1999. Furthermore, SAE must hold two alcohol awareness events in the fall 1998 term. One of the events will be for members of the IFC and will deal with one of the topics in the IFC's Stars of Education program. The suggested format is "a social event in a dry setting," according to Dreger. The other event will be for the entire MITcommunity.

The other sanctions, including the probation, the ban on attendance at the Residence Midway, and the fine were upheld upon appeal.

"If [SAE] fails to comply with any of the sanctions it will be in contempt of the Review Board and that falls under cause for suspension or expulsion" from the Interfraternity Council, Dreger said.

Dean's Office also involved

The Dean's Office has taken action on the incident, but the issue is "still under consideration," said Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates. The office is working with the findings of the IFCinvestigator.

Members of the Dean's Office met with the president of the local SAE chapter and a member of the chapter's alumni corporation. "The alumni are very much involved," Williams said.

"SAE is under suspension while the whole process takes place. We will have a meeting at the end of June to hear their proposal for why they should be allowed to house freshmen," said Bates.

"We don't want to approve them unless they provide a law-abiding environment they must reassure us that they will provide that environment for their freshmen," Williams said.

Although the IFC originally revoked SAE's approved housing status, Bates said that "technically it's the Institute that approves housing." Revoking approved housing status is not the only disciplinary option. "There are a broad range of possible outcomes; it depends on what we find."

The full range of sanctions associated with losing Institute approved housing status are not clear, Williams said. Currently, FSILGs automatically receive Institute approved housing status, however this policy may change in the future.

Institute approved housing status grants the ability to house freshmen in a residence, as well as other privileges.

Concerned bodies not informed

Neither the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity nor the Boston Licensing Board were informed of the incident. "We have not yet been called by the university or the chapter itself," said Benjamin Lewis, press secretary for the SAEnational fraternity, when contacted by The Tech. "We're not happy about finding out this way," he added.

Dorow questioned the accuracy of Lewis' statement. "That's not entirely accurate. I requested that they be sent a letter," he said.

It is the responsibility of SAE to inform its national of such incidents, Williams said.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the SAE national said "we will not tolerate the distribution of alcohol to minors by any chapter of our fraternity. We fully support the university's sanctions against the chapter and we will do everything we can to ensure that these alcohol violations do not happen again."

Exactly which actions will be taken have not yet been decided but the MITchapter will receive visits from SAE's educational leadership consultants, Lewis said.

"[A consultant] will probably make a couple of visits in the fall," Lewis added. Regarding the IFC sanction requiring that SAE remain alcohol free until June 1999, Lewis said "that's something we would have done ourselves."

"This is completely wrong. It's against all our policies. We want our guys to understand that this will never be tolerated again. After what happened in the fall at MITthe last thing we need is them not complying with MIT's alcohol policy," Lewis said.

"We want to squash this feeling of alcohol policy rebellion," he added.

Boston officials not informed

MIT has not informed the Boston Licensing Board of the incident. There is a line between letting the board know about something significant and letting them know every internal event, Bates said.

Compared with other alcohol-related events that have been reported, "this is a very different set of circumstances," she added.

Boston Licensing Board Chairperson Ellen E. Rooney could not comment directly on this case as she had not researched it but "we would be expecting that they would report it to the police," she said.

The policy of the Boston Licensing Board is to investigate all reports filed by the Boston Police Department involving alcohol at licensed facilities such as fraternities.

"We're not planning to decide whether to contact [the licensing board] until the investigation is concluded, perhaps not even then," Bates said. The Deans' Office had not immediately contacted the licensing boardbecause "there's nothing directly affecting the license."

If the boardwere to be informed, it would be through MIT's Office of Government Relations.

The student will not be disciplined by anyone at MIT. "That would not have been appropriate," said Bates. It is unknown whether the student choose to matriculate as a member of the Class of 2002.

Douglas E. Heimburger contributed to the reporting of this story.