After DKE, IFC Judcomm ScrutinizedBy Waseem S. Daher
Disciplinary actions taken against the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity have spurred a new interest among MIT fraternities in the workings and rules of the Interfraternity Council.
On Oct. 15, DKE was suspended by the IFC Judicial Committee for one year after having an unregistered party on Aug. 23.
Newly-elected IFC President Daniel H. Daneshvar ’05 has said that he is interested in pursuing a comprehensive review of IFC laws and policies, including the Judcomm by-laws.
Specifically, the system of disciplinary levels within the IFC Judicial Committee is undergoing the most scrutiny.
Currently, Judcomm can take one of four actions against a fraternity: warning, probation, suspension of privileges, or expulsion.
“I think it’s a good system, but they should have more levels because there’s a huge gap,” between them, said Angelica M. Osorno ’05, president of the No. 6 Club.
Concern regarding the existing system has also incited in some fraternities a renewed interest in the IFC.
“Within my house, there seems to be more interest in running for IFC office, and higher participation,” said Matthew H. Wilkerson ’04, president of Phi Beta Epsilon. “If anything, it’s caused people to look at the IFC differently,” he said.
The new IFC officers also have other ideas, including a modified Rush and re-examination of fraternity self-image.
Fraternities want more openness
Several fraternities have expressed their desire for more openness from the IFC, especially the Judicial Committee.
Arthur G. Fitzmaurice G, president of Zeta Beta Tau, said that one of the major flaws of the Judicial Committee was its lack of communication with the IFC President’s Council. Judcomm would hear cases, and report the rulings to the President’s Council, but not provide any explanation for the rulings.
“Judcomm basically puts the rest of the IFC under a paper bag, and that’s definitely a flaw, Fitzmaurice said. “We should be able to know what’s going on. It just appears very covert, and you don’t want that,” he said.
Similar views were expressed by the newly-elected IFC Vice President, Joshua A. Grochow ’05. “The biggest issue we currently have is ... how to maintain privacy, but tell people enough so that they understand why the decision that was made was actually fair,” Grochow said.
Officers discuss Judcomm
Daneshvar sympathizes with DKE’s situation. “I don’t think anyone was happy with the DKE decision. It was very tough, and I don’t envy the people that were on the board and had to make it,” Daneshvar said.
However, the new administration recognizes that in order to maintain IFC independence, disciplinary action may occasionally be necessary. “The IFC has to be self-governing and self-regulating, said William R. Fowler ’05, the new IFC Judcomm chair. “This particular ruling happens to be one of the more severe cases of the IFC having to govern itself,” he said.
“It may send a signal to the MIT community that when fraternities say that they are not going to have alcohol during Orientation and Rush, they are serious about it,” Fowler said.
Daneshvar and Fowler were also both quick to note that Judcomm was attempting to act in the best interests of the fraternity system.
“The important thing to remember is that the Judicial Committee is made up of five members from five different fraternities. It would be extremely difficult to find a group of people that are more pro-fraternity than the Judcomm review board,” Fowler said.
Council to be strengthened
Daneshvar said that he hopes to address the concerns of various fraternities regarding the DKE decision by strengthening the President’s Council.
First, this would involve the President’s Council holding a comprehensive review of existing IFC policy, to “ensure that these rules truly represent our interests,” said Daneshvar.
One policy criticized by some is the system of levels of disciplinary action set forth in the IFC Judcomm bylaws.
“Reform would almost certainly include a review of the Judcomm by-laws, something about which fraternities seem excited. “I think that a few small changes would be in order, such as creating an extra step between the second and third violation tier,” Daneshvar said, referring to the probation and suspension of privileges tiers.
“I am happy with the initiative that people are taking to try to revise, if need be, the Judcomm by-laws,” said Shaun P. O’Neill ’04, president of Nu Delta.
In addition, Daneshvar hopes to make the IFC President’s Council a place where fraternities could truly communicate with each other and make important decisions.
“Before, it wasn’t really a board that made strong decisions,” he said. “By-laws were kind of forced upon us, and people were afraid to speak up. I’d like to make them more important again, and one of the key steps towards that is to make sure that we all know each other’s names,” Daneshvar said.
Other proposed policy changes
Daneshvar said that he also hoped to make some changes with Rush.
“While we have to respect the dorms’ ability to rush, and we don’t want to infringe on that, we also need to balance it with being reasonable to fraternity members in terms of our recruitment,” Daneshvar said.
He suggested that Rush immediately follow Orientation, so that it would interfere with one week of class rather than two.
Furthermore, “there’s the whole problem that there’s a wet weekend between Orientation and Rush, and it’s very hard to police that weekend, so it just makes more sense to have that as part of Rush,” Daneshvar said.
Grochow said that he also has changes in mind. He said that he would like to focus on is the self-image of fraternities.
“One of the things I noticed was that amongst a lot of the members of the IFC, they don’t really understand that they are more than just a social organization,” Grochow said, “Really, what all houses offer are learning and leadership experiences. A lot of people do understand it, but a surprising number don’t.”
Grochow said he hopes that helping fraternities to recognize the versatility of the services they provide will ultimately help out Rush as well as the IFC as a whole.