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MIT Students Rally For PKS, Leukemia

Rally Raises $10,000 for Leukemia Society

By Karen Robinson

Over 700 students attended a rally in an overwhelming show of support for MIT’s embattled fraternities on Saturday. The rally protested the media and political pressure put upon MIT in the past week and raised money for the Leukemia Society of America.

The rally was held largely in response to the eviction of members of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity from their house last Wednesday and the cancellation of PKS’ bi-annual Halloween party Skuffle which benefits the Leukemia society. Over $10,000 was donated, including a $1,000 donation from Charles M. Vest and several large donations by fraternity alumni. Skuffle has traditionally raised $1,000 to $2,000.

The rally had a two-fold purpose, said Peter A. Shulman ’01, one of the rally’s organizers. Aside from continuing Phi Kappa Sigma’s effort to raise money for LSA, the rally was to “show the positive side of MIT” to the news media and world, as well as to MIT students.

“People channeled their anger and their negative energy about what happened this week into something positive,” said Christopher R. Rezek ’99 who aided in the organization of the rally.

Media coverage ambivalent

While the purpose of the rally was in many ways to support PKS, this was lost on many local media outlets who reported the rally as a way for students to distance themselves from those who have had run-ins with local government offices.

“I got the impression they oversimplified the issues,” said Chris Beland ’00 who was strongly involved in the rally, but said he was not surprised.

There’s been “a national trend to report on fraternity mishaps,” said rally organizer Benjamin K. Chun ’99. “Mainstream media rarely reports the fine distinction that we understand” as MIT students.

“Public ruckus about fraternities in Boston media is really telling people what they want to hear,” Beland said.

Vest, Bacow support students

Several administrators “asked if they would be welcome” at the rally and were subsequently invited, according to Chun.

The rally began with an address by Vest who emphasized that he is “deeply proud of this student body.”

Vest said he hoped that MIT and Boston would deal with the “few [students] who have done dangerous things, then move on.” He spoke in support of the “fine young men of Phi Kappa Sigma” and their effort to “do some good.”

Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72, said, “it’s wonderful the campus has come together this way, both to support PKS and leukemia.”

Speakers on housing, leukemia

Other speakers spoke about leukemia, about the housing system, and about the news media. Matt McGann, Undergraduate Association president, emphasized that MIT students do participate in community service, and asked the crowd to have pride in themselves as a student body

David Kristofek ’02, who was roommate last year to leukemia patient David Li ’02, read a letter from Li describing leukemia’s effect and the necessity for bone marrow donors. He strongly encourages students, especially non-caucasian students (who are underrepresented in bone marrow registers) to have their bone marrow type recorded in an upcoming bone marrow drive, November 19.

Joel D. Rosenberg ’99, founder of, began by saying, “Now, some people would have a walk for leukemia ... but we’ve decided to talk about it ... in leukemia, a few cells get out of control...” and continued to speak of the MIT residential system in parallel with the disease. “Now, one treatment for leukemia is chemotherapy,” he continued, describing a treatment which kills healthy and cancerous cells alike.

Student Aram W. Harrow ’01 used the rally as an opportunity to circulate a petition to make voting day an MIT holiday. This would “encourage students to vote and to become informed on political campaigns.” Harrow said he thinks the day should be a national holiday as well -- it’s a cool way to make it relevant.”

Rally organized by many

The idea behind the rally originated on the mailing list ifc-talk, and expanded rapidly, Shulman said. This does not mean that the rally was sponsored by the Interfraternity Council however; in fact no one campus organization was responsible for the rally. Instead, it was run by several students from different areas of campus. The rally was endorsed by several groups, however, including the IFC, UA, and Dormitory Council.

“This is just a first step,” Shulman said, and said he expected even more student involvement in community service activities in the coming months which will, hopefully, become a lasting habit.

“We got a sense of something greater than ourselves,” McGann said commenting on the sense of community the rally inspired.

“The next challenge is to have a community that come together when there’s not a crisis,” Beland said.

Rima Arnaout contributed to the reporting of this story.