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Punishment and Compromise

Last week, the Cambridge Licensing Commission rightly suspended the Alpha Tau Omega and Kappa Sigma fraternities in the wake of recent alcohol abuse at both houses. But the CLC also reached further and announced its intention to enforce draconian zoning rules which jeopardize fraternity parties in Cambridge. We urge the fraternities and the city to avoid these harsh measures and to reach a compromise regarding parties.

Alpha Tau Omega was suspended for ten days because of its New Year’s Eve party, which resulted in several events. Kappa Sigma was suspended for thirty days after a guest required hospitalization for alcohol intoxication. These suspensions are reasonable punishment given the gravity of the charges (and the history of abuse, in Kappa Sigma’s case). The CLC wants the suspensions to include fall rush; we agree, but recommend that the remaining balance of the suspensions be served during the summer, so that fraternity residents are not disrupted during the academic term.

Also at last week’s hearing, the CLC notified Cambridge fraternities that it will now enforce regulations prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 non-residents at fraternities. Exemptions from this law, which would revolve around zoning and disability access, would be difficult to obtain under present rules. These rules have been law for some time, and there is nothing unfair per se in enforcing present laws. However, the timing of the CLC’s decision to coincide with the suspensions of ATO and Kappa Sigma amounts to a crackdown on all Cambridge fraternities, rather than punishment of the deviant houses.

After the recent fraternity fiascoes in the City of Boston, the city’s Inspectional Services Department and MIT’s Boston fraternities reached a compromise allowing for exemptions based on inspections of the houses. A similar arrangement would be welcome here. The current policy, with its cap of 50 persons on gatherings, looms ominously over the social life of the Cambridge houses and deserves to be changed.

We call on the Institute, the Interfraternity Council, the individual houses, and the City of Cambridge to work together to reach a compromise that preserves student social life while alleviating the city’s concerns.