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Binge and Purge

Joel Rosenberg

How do you stop binge drinking at a fraternity? Purge the house, of course. Sig Ep is currently undergoing this bulimic phenomenon, and I'm here to explain what I can about the process.

The pledges went on the annual pledge trip a few weeks ago, choosing Penn State as their destination. While engaging in the risky behavior of carrying a keg into the chapter down there (it's always safer to keep the keg stationary), the Regional Director from Sigma Phi Epsilon National Headquarters "caught" them, setting the "reorganization" ball in motion.

Right before Thanksgiving, national sent some guy to personally explain what this process involved. First, he announced that the every member of the house (plus our charter) was suspended. In order to become unsuspended, every member had to complete a questionnaire, and go through an interview with the "Alumni Advisory Council." After that, the council would choose to keep you, let you remain suspended, or start working to expel you. Failure to interview would result in permanent suspension.

The national guy explained that this latest incident was but one from a long history of problem behavior, which, combined with our low manpower and crappy GPA, made us an unacceptable chapter. We responded with several points: We didn't understand how booting people was going to help with manpower; our GPA, while perhaps below campus average, is still a 4.0, not to mention that this school is slightly tougher than most others; and our very own alumni board president, Shaun Meredith G, was arrested as an undergrad for some fraternity prank, only to repeat the prank the following year in the name of tradition. Meredith responded by saying he was foolish back then, which was exactly our point - we're supposed to be foolish college kids.

The interview/questionnaire stuff is scheduled for this week, a time we pointed out is particularly bad, since it's the end-of-term crunch. National guy said the dates were "set in stone," which Shaun was quick to repeat, almost making the timing out to be a punishment. It doesn't make much sense when you consider one of their big complaints about us was academics, but stone is stone.

The questionnaire was four pages long, and included questions like: "What reputation do you believe the Massachusetts Delta Chapter has on campus with Greek organizations, administrators, students?" "What is the purpose of Sigma Phi Epsilon?" "What do you recommend being done to solve the chapter's problems?"

My favorite question is the last one: "Why should the National Board of Directors of Sigma Phi Epsilon keep this chapter open?" The fact is, National is keeping the chapter open because it makes them look good to have an MIT chapter. National's just getting rid of the undesirables who don't fit into the "Strategic Plan" of the "Grand Chapter." These fascist terms come from the "Alumni Advisory Council Guidelines."

There's a line from those guidelines, "Members have to understand that they give up certain individual rights' and have added responsibilities when they join a fraternity. If that idea offends them or if they try to tell you their chapter is different, beware. Watch out for rebels." Well, I guess I'm a rebel, because I think our chapter is different, the same way every MIT fraternity chapter is different from its generic national counterparts.

We go to a very different school that places very different demands on students, and live in a very different system that gets tons of people to change their stereotypes about fraternities. The houses are a refuge from MIT, basically clubs people join because they're fun places to live, filled with interesting people you might normally not meet. But we get enough rules as scientists and engineers to not need too many more at home, especially ones written up by some people you didn't elect who liked their fraternity so much they made it their career. Sure, your "rights" might be changed by living in a communal setting, and yes, you might have added responsibilities to keep the house running, but neither is an offensive idea.

What is offensive is when a bunch of strangers descend on your house to kick people out at will. It's offensive when a brand name is placed above concern for individuals, which both national guy and Meredith are admittedly guilty of. It's offensive when people who have already had their fun return to tell you that you're not allowed to make the same mistakes they did. It's offensive when they tell you that anyone not "invited" to help "rebuild" the chapter will be arrested for trespassing if caught in the "facility." This whole process is offensive, because we're certainly on the defensive.

So that's basically what's going on over at Sig Ep. It's too bad that everything has become such a liability these days that everyone's just trying to cover their ass. The somber mood across campus shows what happens when you purge fun from college.