ATO and the Kangaroo Court
In the Salem witch trials, innocent women were accused of being witches for political reasons. Once accused, it was impossible to prove one’s innocence, and the punishment for witchcraft was death. Innocent women were encouraged to confess rather than fight so that they could receive a quick and painless hanging rather than drawn out, painful torture.
We are told to remember history or we will make the same mistakes in the future. Only three years ago, our own hunt to remove fraternities from our community began, and no one’s whistle seems to be loud enough to turn us off this terrible path. This hunt is an administrative agenda, and as it takes its course, it wrongs MIT students as a community, as groups of people, and as individuals.
On Friday, April 27, a short verbal altercation between two brothers of Alpha Tau Omega and members of the band The Roots transpired. Many believe the remarks to be racially charged. I personally do not condone racist remarks, but the law does not agree with me. In protection of freedom of speech, Massachusetts law tolerates far worse than the remarks made (which were not particularly racist at all, actually).
However, the law does not tolerate what happened next. Jaguar and the band stormed the ATO residence, entered unlawfully, created a weapon out of a 1.5-foot serving spoon found in the kitchen, and used it to perpetrate assault and battery against residents of the house.
MIT is on a hunt for fraternities, not black people, so the results are not what you might expect. MIT did not encourage ATO to press charges against The Roots. MIT did not offer to provide counseling for the brothers who were beaten with a large piece of metal. Instead, like judges in the Salem Witch Trials, MIT encouraged ATO to fess up quickly and to make reparations for a crime they did not commit.
MIT was lightning fast in its effort to avoid bad press and other unpleasantries by quickly forcing ATO to confess their guilt to crimes they did not commit. Due to the statements made by two ATO brothers (protected under Massachusetts Law) that led the brothers to be beaten by The Roots (not protected by any law), ATO suspended two brothers, cannot use their roof deck, cannot throw parties, must put the entire house through “sensitivity training,” and make other incommensurate reparations.
In addition, President Vest issued an e-mail to the MIT community that, if nothing else, puts ATO into a guilty-until-proven-innocent battle. He condemned ATO and the brothers who shouted questionably racist remarks while the investigation is still under way, and neither ATO nor any of its members have yet been found guilty of any crime.
Then, to add insult to injury, on May 10, MIT will try to deliver a deathblow to the already weakened fraternity in an IFC trial where they will be charged with failing to register an Event, serving alcohol to a minor at said Event, and the aforementioned racial epithets. However, the alcohol charges are clearly not legitimate by the IFC’s own “Policies for Risk Management and Risk Management Enforcement” available online on the IFC’s website at <http://ifc-web.mit.edu/documents/ index.asp>.
In her depiction of the events on the roof of ATO, the perpetrator of most of the violence, Jaguar, noted that her partner in crime, Black Thought, knocked a beer out of the hands of an ATO brother. Note that there was no IFC “spot check” at ATO to uncover an unregistered party on April 27 (not that that would have been legal by IFC rules anyway). There were no noise complaints from neighbors that would lead police to believe there was a party at ATO on April 27. However, because a non-official, non-IFC, non-MIT-affiliated person who should have been charged with assault and battery said there was a beer on the roof of ATO, the fraternity will be charged with holding an unregistered event. They will more than likely be forced to go dry, which is the punishment for drinking at an unregistered event.
The charge in question here is Article XI.B.3 of the above mentioned policy document. This relates to “small events” as defined by the IFC, and states that “All small events should be registered with the IFC Judicial Committee at least three days prior to the event.” However, the IFC seems to have overlooked Article XI.B.2, directly above, in which a “Small Event” is defined. Specifically, “Small Events with Alcohol Present are defined as events in which the ratio of guests to members that live in the house does not greatly exceed one to one.” The IFC has a list of the names of all people present on the roof of ATO which they plan to use against the fraternity. However, this list has only the names of approximately 25 brothers and five guests as being present on the ATO roof deck. This is not even close to “one to one”. This ratio is 0.2 to one.
If what was occurring on ATO’s roof deck was not a Small Event, and it certainly was not a Large Event, then the charge of failing to register a Small Event is unfounded. What occurred on ATO’s roof deck was that brothers were hanging out with a few friends, something which is not required to be registered with the IFC. If that charge is unfounded, then ATO cannot be charged for serving alcohol at the non-existent Small Event. A minor caught drinking is punishable by citation of the individual. It is not an IFC or CLC matter.
Even with no decisions yet made as to the guilt or innocence of ATO or its members, and with the date of the trial set for Thursday, the IFC has written a report to the Cambridge Licensing Committee. In this letter, the IFC convicts ATO of having an unregistered party with underage drinking. This letter is certain to ruin ATO, while the IFC’s motivations in writing letters to the CLC in this instance are vague at best. Why would the Interfraternity Council want to shoot itself and one of its members in the foot? Perhaps they were told to do so by the MIT administration. Perhaps the IFC is the right facade needed for MIT to keep itself at arm’s length from its own dirty work.
So in the end, Jaguar and Black Thought, who unlawfully entered a residence and beat the inhabitants with a metal spoon, will go unpunished. Two brothers of ATO who made questionably racist remarks have been expelled from their brotherhood. An entire fraternity will probably go dry, might lose their lodging license, and has been forced to punish itself to unthinkable extents--all because someone yelled “I love black people.”
I wonder what we will call the calculated eradication of fraternities, once we are far enough removed from it to see it for what it is. The murdering of innocent women at Salem was called the Salem Witch Trials.
For more information on protection of rights to free speech and rights to due process on campuses, please visit the website of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education at <http://www.thefire.org>.
Dan Chak is a member of the Class of 2002.