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PKS Closed Following Inspection; Parties Cancelled; Students May Face Criminal Proceedings for Blast

By Matthew F. Palmer

Campus Police asked Cambridge District Court yesterday to hold a hearing to decide whether three Phi Kappa Sigma students and an alumnus would be indicted in connection with Tuesday’s explosion in Room 10-250.

Boston’s Inspectional Services Department had earlier closed the house, located at 530 Beacon Street in Boston, for code violations. The house remains closed today while professional contractors repair the violations. PKS’s Skuffle party, along with all other Interfraternity Council parties scheduled this weekend, has been cancelled.

The Middlesex District Court hearing is being requested on the grounds that the Phi Kappa Sigma students illegally possessed and used fireworks and disturbed the peace, according to an MIT press release. The hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12.

In a prepared statement, MIT President Charles M. Vest said, “The device that exploded caused injury and damage and endangered others. We have no choice but to hold them responsible. I urge that this decision be viewed in this context. There was no malicious intent. It was an accident, pure and simple.”

“It was an unfortunate incident,” said PKS President Lanny R. Chiu ’00. “We’re ready to move on.”

Cambridge Police and both Boston and Cambridge bomb squads evacuated Building 10 following Tuesday’s explosion of an incendiary device, closing it for most of the afternoon.

PKS brothers ordered to vacate

The Boston ISD ordered PKS members to leave their house Wednesday due to “rodent violations, egress issues and illegal construction,” according to an MIT press release. The students are currently living in other fraternities.

Chiu said the investigators found “turpentine and old soda bottles.”

Bill Lee, a member of PKS’s alumni board, said the board has hired a contractor and exterminator to correct the problems. He hoped members of the fraternity could move back on Friday.

“MIT shares the city’s desire to assure safe housing for these students. All of the violations cited are easily corrected and the Institute will move swiftly to assist the fraternity in correcting them,” MIT said in a press release.

“MIT has tried to be as supportive as possible [of PKS] while not condoning unacceptable behavior,” said Assistant Dean and Director of Mediation Carol Orme-Johnson.

“The Campus Police has an obligation to pursue crimes that they are aware of. The administration can’t do anything about that,” Orme-Johnson said.

FSILGs cancel Halloween parties

PKS’s bi-annual Skuffle Halloween party, along with all fraternity parties for this weekend, have been called off. Interfraternity Council President Michael V. Trupiano ’00 said IFC officials spoke to fraternity presidents warning them of the potential dangers of holding a party this weekend.

After speaking with the IFC, Theta Chi President Philip W. Juang ’00 decided to cancel their Under the Sea party planned for Friday. “[The IFC said] it was a bad time to have a party. It would draw attention and you might be evicted,” Juang said.

In addition, a letter from the IFC Executive Committee was sent to the fraternities saying that the explosion, the revoking of Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s license, and other fraternity problems “lead us to believe that there is a concerted effort to find fault in the conduct and existence of Boston FSILG’s, and that anything happening at an FSILG will be circumspect.”

“It was an individual event,” said Trupiano. “We won’t deal with it as a fraternity issue.” The IFC Executive Committee met Thursday to discuss the PKS incident.

A rally is being planned for Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. on the steps of 77 Massachusetts Avenue. Benjamin K. Chun ’00, Vice President of the IFC Activity Organization, said the event will support PKS, help raise money for the charity that Skuffle would have supported, and show that MIT students are responsible and supportive.

“What makes it in the headlines is not what we’re about,” Chun said of MIT students.

The IFC has invited city and MIT officials to the rally. They hope to raise $2,000 for the Leukemia Foundation of America.

Police investigate explosion

As part of an extensive advertising campaign for “Skuffle,” the fraternity’s bi-annual Halloween party, PKS students were planning to interrupt Tuesday’s Circuits and Electronics (6.002) lecture in Room 10-250. Robert H. Lee ’02 walked into the lecture dressed in a grim reaper costume.

“As part of the disruption, one of them was holding a device that they thought would go up in a puff of smoke... it exploded,” said MIT Spokesman Robert J. Sales. Previous interruptions had been conducted without incident.

Lee was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital with injuries to his hands.

Chiu said Lee was released from the hospital later that day in good condition. “He was a little shaken up,” Chiu said.

Aaron A. Griswold ’03 and Ripal B. Nathuji ’02 also suffered minor injuries. They were treated and released from the MIT Medical Center.

Campus Police closed off Building 10 for most of the afternoon while the Cambridge Police and Fire Departments aided in the investigation. The Cambridge Bomb Squad found a second device similar to the one that exploded and confiscated it. Building 10 was re-opened later that afternoon.

Chiu said that the device that exploded was “store bought” and that other fraternities have used similar devices in advertising their events. The Cambridge Police searched PKS’s house Tuesday afternoon, looking for explosives. Chiu said the police left without issuing a citation.

Tuesday’s incident received national media coverage. Television news vans lined Massachusetts Avenue until late in the evening. “I’m sure [the media coverage] didn’t help,” said Orme-Johnson. “MIT is in an intense spotlight; it has been reality for over two years now.”