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Another Look at Disclosure

Guest Column
Christopher D. Beland

So once again, I am seriously wondering why I always find out about the latest fraternity drinking mishaps from the off-campus press. This latest incident apparently involves a Wellesley freshman being taken to the hospital after drinking at an SAE party.

When municipal police start an investigation of some alleged crime, this fact is made public -- indeed, it’s a sign of a healthy law enforcement department. At the Institute, we have instead the Boston Globe reporting: “Neal Dorow, an associate dean and head of MIT’s Intrafraternity Council, would neither confirm nor deny yesterday that a formal investigation by the school is ongoing. ‘I really do not feel comfortable commenting,’ he said.”

The next day, MIT sent out a press release declaring that the Campus Police have already investigated the incident and have reported their findings to Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education. Is this a case of MIT’s right hand not knowing what its left hand was doing, a flub during an interview with a reporter, or was the Institute deliberately trying to hide the fact that an investigation was ongoing? And was this tactic rapidly reversed when the administration woke up Thursday morning to read all about the alleged incident in the Globe?

I’m all in favor of keeping the details of police investigations secret until finished --how else can a fair and complete job be done? But in a community the size of MIT, and with violations as serious as these -- which affect all of us here -- we cannot afford to shove every substance-related incident under the rug until the Globe or the Herald breaks the story. Not that I am in favor of slandering living groups or individuals needlessly -- it’s just as important to exonerate as it is to condemn.

But how many incidents have occurred at MIT that have been covered up and the responsible parties given a slap on the wrist, or otherwise subtly warned to be more careful not to get caught next time? The rash of revelations following the Krueger incident in September, 1997, highlighted MIT’s long-standing practice of covering up events of this sort, a tendency to which it unfortunately still clings.

In this particular case, once again, we see the Boston Licensing Board taking care of the business that the IFC and ODSUE cannot or will not. Every time an MIT living goes before a city review board with an alcohol incident it makes it that much harder for the rest of us to maintain a positive relationship with our neighbors and the city administration.

I’d like to see MIT and the IFC take a hard look at their disclosure and disciplinary procedures. Effective enforcement of alcohol and safety-related policies in MIT FSILGs is seriously lacking, and the cloud of secrecy surrounding enforcement procedures is not helping one bit. This is something that affects the entire MIT community, and I think the community should get more involved in seeing that these issues are addressed in a timely and substantive fashion.

Maybe for once, the campus media will recognize this substantive issue and step up to the plate in its role as administrative watchdog. Student governments and administrative advisory committees, too, should not shirk their responsibility to deal with these problems.

Christopher D. Beland is a member of the Class of 2000.