Fraternities had a rough year in 2010: Over the course of 365 days, MIT saw one fraternity suspended and another sued, later reaching a six-figure settlement.
PBE suspended for four years
Two days into 2010 rush, Phi Beta Epsilon (PBE) received a sanction from the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and was immediately banned from rushing new members. Fifteen days later, on Sept. 21, PBE was given a four-year suspension by the IFC for violating no-tolerance policies on hazing in PBE’s new member program.
The IFC said that at the beginning of fall rush, an anonymous source gave the IFC a document describing PBE’s new member education activities for the 2013 pledge class. The alleged offenses spanned a time period from 2009 rush through initiation in January 2010.
An IFC judicial board (which includes four representatives from different fraternities and the Judicial Committee secretary) held a hearing on the same day PBE was sanctioned, where three PBE representatives spoke. The Board decided to expel PBE, meaning a 10-year ban from MIT. According to the IFC Judicial Committee (JudComm) chair Garrett R. Fritz ’11, “it was a unanimous decision from all the board members that they were responsible for hazing.”
PBE appealed the decision on two grounds: that the judicial process was flawed, and that the punishment was too severe. The appeal was granted, and PBE’s punishment was changed to a suspension for four years.
PBE and the IFC also disagreed on several other key points, including the interpretation of the activities mentioned in the document and the fairness of the trial.
As a result of the questions raised about the IFC judicial process, a fraternity president, whose identity was not disclosed, proposed a change to the judicial bylaws so that the fraternity presidents would be more involved in future fraternity suspension and expulsion cases. The change did not receive the required majority vote of the presidents to pass. The IFC Executive Board did, however, create a committee to review the IFC judicial policies and procedures to explore possibilities for their improvement.
Despite MIT’s request to the Cambridge License Commission (CLC) to revoke PBE’s housing license, required for persons to live in the house, PBE’s housing license is still valid and does not expire until this May. According to Elizabeth Lint, the executive officer of the CLC, the hearing was initially scheduled for October 26, deferred to November 23, and then continued indefinitely, per PBE’s attorney’s request. The PBE Corporation owns the house and the property on which it sits on. It is still unclear what will be the fate of PBE’s house or the fraternity in five years.
Tau Epsilon Phi (TEP) sued for alleged sodium drop incident
In August, TEP settled a lawsuit with a six-figure settlement to Thomas Soisson and Katherine Nardin, two volunteers who were hurt when they picked up sodium that TEP members had allegedly thrown into the river during their sodium drop rush event in 2007.
On September 6, 2007, while volunteering for the non-profit clean-up organization Charles River Clean-Up Boat, Soisson, Nardin, Patrick Hodgins, and Matt McCord were injured by an exploding piece of sodium metal they had picked up from the shores of the Charles River.
According to a doctor’s account in the incident’s detective’s report, Soisson and Nardin suffered severe chemical burns to their legs, forearms, and facial areas as a result of the explosion.
Bhaskar Mookerji G, a TEP member at the time, confessed that he threw the sodium into the Charles on or around Sept. 4, 2007, two days before the volunteers were injured by the metal.
The settlement was paid from the insurance policies of TEP and Mookerji. The money compensated Soisson and Nardin for emotional trauma and medical expenses.