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Permit Concerns Imperil Cambridge Fraternity Events

Cambridge Licensing Commission Levies Rush Sanctions on Kappa Sigma, ATO

By Frank Dabek
EDITOR IN CHIEF

The Cambridge Licensing Commission has dealt a double blow to MIT’s Cambridge-based fraternities.

At a hearing Thursday, the commission handed down stiff penalties against Alpha Tau Omega and Kappa Sigma and simultaneously alerted MIT to regulations that prohibit houses from hosting events attended by more than 50 individuals.

Kappa Sig will lose its housing license for 30 days during next fall’s rush as a result of an incident in which a female party-goer was hospitalized after becoming intoxicated at the Memorial Drive fraternity.

ATO’s sanctions, which are the result of a raucous New Year’s party, include a ten day housing suspension, also during rush.

The penalties make clear a new strictness with respect to alcohol violations on the part of the commission. It is “no longer a rite of passage to be able to be drunk at a frat house,” said Richard Scali, the commission’s executive officer.

Licensing concerns halt events

Overshadowing the rulings against individual houses is a new understanding between MIT and Cambridge that houses must obtain city-issued permits to hold events with more than 50 people in attendance. As a result, the Interfraternity Council will not host large events in Cambridge until it determines that all houses have obtained all necessary permits, said Russel L. Spieler ’00, IFC Judicial Committee chair.

Both the city and the Institute are seeking clarification on the issue of the assembly permits.

Associate Dean Neal H. Dorow said that his office is acting under the conservative assumption that the commission is “putting all license holders on notice.” Dorow, who acts as adviser to fraternities, sororities and independent living groups, said that it was unclear what regulations fraternities would have to meet to obtain the necessary permits.

Scali said that it is the commission’s understanding that each house which intends to host events needs to apply for an extension of their certificate of inspection to allow such events.

Robert Bersani, commissioner of Inspectional Services, said that such extensions would be issued on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration building code compliance and the precise zoning of the property.

Other factors could include handicap accessibility and access to rest rooms, Scali said. Meeting such disability requirements or changing zoning could prove prohibitively costly for the houses.

Dormitories also must abide by these regulations, but most already have the necessary assembly permits and will not be affected, said Associate Dean Andrew M. Eisenmann ’70.

The IFC, along with the administration, is prepared to take all necessary steps to gain whatever permits are necessary to allow large events to continue in Cambridge. In a widely circulated e-mail, IFC president Damien A. Brosnan ’01 said, “We as an FSILG community must take the first step in ensuring that we can continue with our way of life (provided that way of life is responsible and in accordance with our rules and standards).”

Timing not accidental

According to Scali, the commission chose to suspend the houses during rush because “they wanted incoming freshmen to understand why” the houses were sanctioned.

The commission, Scali said, hopes to convey the seriousness of these alcohol violations: “The only way to convey that is to hit them where it hurts.”

In addition to the suspensions levied by the commission, Kappa Sig must be alcohol-free for two years, and ATO for one year. Both fraternities have also agreed to hire full-time managers who are not members of the fraternity. ATO, in addition, has agreed to hire security at the house at times such as holidays when few brothers are present.

While the rush suspensions are serious, Kappa Sig, despite their prior record with the commission, avoided the much harsher penalty of revocation. “[The commissioners] were going to revoke,” Scali said.

Kappa Sig, along with ATO, met with administration officials and IFC representatives to discuss the houses’ cases at an eleventh hour meeting the night before the decision hearing.

Co-Director of Government Relations Sarah E. Gallop said that the meeting, which included Eisenmann, Dorow, and Dean of Students Margaret R. Bates, resulted in both houses producing proposals that were presented to the board the next day.

Those proposals were nearly identical to the sanctions handed down by the board but lacked the license suspensions.

Both sides agreed that the depth of Kappa Sigma’s proposal swayed the board. “Kappa Sigma did a very good job coming up with a plan,” Scali said. The board approved of this proactive measure, he said.

Kappa Sigma President Christopher J. Peikert ’00 said that the house’s “previous experience with the CLC was enlightening.”

ATO’s penalty was harsh compared to the one-year alcohol suspension Kappa Sig was hit with in their first trip before the commission. We “had a clean record going in ... [We] expected a punishment similar to the first” Kappa Sig sanction, President Jeffrey J. Billing ’01 said.

Scali said that additional evidence as well as contradictions between the house’s and Campus Police reports of the events of New Year’s eve led to the sanction.

ATO’s plan was “not as far reaching as Kappa Sigma’s,” Gallop said. In addition, the board was disappointed that the house didn’t do more to take responsibility for errors, she said.