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Report Details FSILG Problems

By Beckett W. Sterner

EDITOR IN CHIEF

The Fraternity, Sorority and Independent Living Group report, due out this Monday, embraces the FSILG system as beneficial to MIT but details serious behavioral and financial problems facing the system in the next few years.

The report “does a very good job of portraying an authentic picture,” said Josiah D. Seale G, a task force member and former Undergraduate Association president.

“The possibility of a fraternity ending from purely financial problems is real,” said Christopher R. Rezek ’99, director of the FSILG Cooperative, a program giving houses increased purchasing power, who also contributed a financial study to the report. However, he said, the “task force says, ‘Yes, we should save them.’”

In general, the report urges a more positive and open approach to decision making along with increased involvement of the living groups’ alumni, hoping to eliminate some of the distrust created between students, alumni and MIT following MIT’s decision to move all freshmen onto campus.

“The worst part of [freshmen on campus] is that it fractured all trust,” said task force member Bryan P. Adams G. “We need to be more careful in engineering” future transitions, he said.

The report takes “a holistic way of addressing the problem,” he said, serving more as a plan of action than a specific set of recommendations.

The task force was composed of people with a broad range of backgrounds, from current students to FSILG alumni now in the administration. The co-chairs were Professor Patrick H. Winston and Director of Enterprise Service Stephen D. Immerman.

Following its release on Monday, Immerman said MIT will gather public feedback and comments on the report for about 30 days via the task force’s Web site (http://fsilg-task-force.mit.edu/).

“The first order is to solicit comment from the community,” he said, after which he and possibly other members of the task force would tour the relevant constituencies gathering further feedback.

The task force also made an effort to gather feedback from FSILGs during its research phase, visiting 22 FSILGs and holding open discussions where members could voice opinions to task force members.

FSILGs face serious difficulties

In addition to its recommendations, the report details the extent of financial problems facing the fraternity and independent living group systems in particular.

While the sorority system is relatively healthy, the number of people living in fraternities and independent living groups has dropped by about 500 in the last ten years, from 1400 to 900.

Compared to the steady state average prior to MIT’s decision to move all freshmen on campus, fraternities and ILGs have seen an average drop of 13 residents. This number includes year-round boarders as well as living group members and may underestimate the drop of living group members. At worst, Alpha Delta Pi lost 53 residents out of an original 110, although most losses lie between 10 and 25. Sigma Nu is the only fraternity to have grown, by about 8 members, though it too has seen a decrease in the past two years.

The drop in membership has created a similar drop in the income the houses can collect from rent, putting several houses at risk of closing.

In the past ten years, however, all the fraternities that closed did so because of serious disciplinary problems, including Phi Gamma Delta, the fraternity whose pledge Scott S. Krueger’s death led to the freshmen on campus decision in the first place.

Before the change, though, about 50 percent of MIT’s men pledged fraternities, significantly higher than the national average of about 10 percent. Should MIT’s recent move closer to standard housing practices on many other campuses lead to a similar change in pledge rates, 80 percent of fraternities could conceivably run out of members.

One of the greatest obstacles in 2002 to a higher pledge rate during Rush was its location in the term, directly during popular weeks for mid-term exams. This year’s Rush was the first since 2001 to begin before classes, a change that many hope will either increase or stabilize the pledge rate.

Interfraternity Council President Daniel H. Daneshvar ’05 said he was also planning to add an additional rush during the Independent Activities Period this year. The new rush period would not have as high profile events, he said, but would be more focused on getting the friends of current pledges over to the house.

Ultimately, because the schedule and format of fall Rush has changed each year, it is not yet clear what the equilibrium size of the new system will be, although it is clear significant effort would be required to return it to its average size of ten years ago.