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Internal IFC Sanctions Could Preempt Boards

By Kevin R. Lang

If the Interfraternity Council has its way, hearings such as Kappa Sigma’s recent appearance before the Cambridge Licensing Commission could become a thing of the past.

IFC representatives met with members of the CLC and the Boston Licensing Board on Thursday to discuss new plans for internal disciplinary sanctions.

Under a new agreement, the BLB would wait for IFC judicial proceedings to conclude before holding a hearing, and both the BLB and CLC would consider internal actions before levying additional sanctions.

IFC heads in new direction

The most recent incidents surrounding an MIT fraternity could mark a change in the handling of disciplinary proceedings. Kappa Sigma explained to the Commission that a house member, acting alone, was responsible for damage done to the house. KS sanctioned the student by revoking his active status in the fraternity and asking him to move out of the house.

At the time, CLC executive director Richard Scali said that the commission members were “very happy that they took some action on their own.” This incident has set something of a precedent for future fraternity disciplinary proceedings.

BLB, CLC could have less impact

The most significant change to come from the meeting is a new policy of IFC self-policing.

IFC Risk Management Chair Rory P. Pheiffer ’02 said that the council hopes to eventually have a system where the CLC and BLB would avoid disciplinary hearings except in extreme circumstances.

“The overall goal is to keep everything internal,” Pheiffer said.

IFC Judicial Committee Chair Russell L. Spieler ’00 will present recommended sanctions for specific incidents at an IFC meeting Wednesday.

Spieler noted that current IFC risk management guidelines do not give much detail regarding specific sanctions. Pheiffer noted that “in most cases lately, we’ve needed more than the minimum sanction.”

The new sanctions “show that in some cases we’re going to need to be a lot stricter,” Spieler said. The sanctions are only guidelines, however, to prepare member houses for possible IFC action.

Violations explicitly named in the proposal include hazing, serving alcohol to minors, hard alcohol and/or drugs at house events, failing to seek medical attention, and unregistered events.

IFC has primary jurisdiction

In another development, the BLB will now allow the IFC to carry out judicial proceedings before holding a hearing.

“We met with [BLB chair Daniel F. Pokaski], and I basically got him to agree to hold off on any hearings until we’ve completed our hearings,” Spieler said. Previously, the IFC attended hearings to present any action they had already taken.

Brosnan said that the agreement tentative, but called the development “a huge step of empowerment for our community.”

The IFC hopes that tougher sanctions will convince the licensing boards to avoid further action.

“I think that we regulate ourselves pretty well,” Brosnan said, noting that Kappa Sigma’s most recent incident was handled “very well internally.”

Spieler also hoped to avoid the negative press often associated with hearings before the local licensing boards.

“We’d like to avoid all the public relations issues when you have a public hearing,” Spieler said. “We don’t want to allow one house to ruin the reputation of all houses.”

Brosnan said that the IFC tries “to avoid a hearing from them as much as possible.”

Brosnan noted that Pokaski did not want to hear about fraternity incidents through the media rather than through the IFC.

“We have a process right now where MIT informs the Boston Licensing Board ... of any incidents that occur.”

Licensing boards retain authority

Scali said that regardless of the new relationship with the IFC, “the CLC can act at any time to have a hearing to find out information, and they probably will do that no matter what. That’s really what the commissioners are looking for.”

Spieler recognized that the BLB and CLC will take action in some cases regardless of IFC sanctions, but that the IFC would not turn over cases to the licensing boards automatically.

“We would never say specifically ‘we think the Boston Licensing Board should look at this.’”

Pheiffer thought that the CLC and BLB “wouldn’t be looking in as much as they have to now.”

In the past, some of the most severe cases handed down have been when houses on probation have had repeat violations.

Spieler noted that IFC sanctions also become more severe for repeat offenders. “It’s usually pretty clear what the second violation would entail,” Spieler said.

Parties praise results of meeting

“When the two members of the CLC left, after the meeting they were very positive,” Pheiffer said.

Spieler said that administrators at Thursday’s meeting “all applauded what happened. They were very excited about the way the meeting went.”

However, Brosnan noted that the CLC and BLB were not as aware of IFC matters as he had hoped.

“They saw things they had no idea about,” Brosnan said.

Scali called the meeting “very, very informative,” noting that the policies and risk management procedures presented by the IFC were previously unknown to him. The IFC announced a major risk management program in the fall of 1997, and it has since been expanded and revised.

“No one’s ever presented it to us,” Scali said.

Scali looked forward to working with fraternities outside a hearing setting.

“It would be a great pleasure to work with all of those people,” Scali said. “They were very, very helpful.”

Ideally, Pheiffer hopes to have meetings at least once a year, not only after specific incidents.

“If another incident were to occur, we wouldn’t have one of these meetings two weeks later. That wasn’t the point of the meeting.”