Phi Beta Epsilon can resolve the debate over their expulsion from the Interfraternity Council and whether their actions constitute hazing by releasing the document detailing the incident in question to public review. This document, describing membership education activities for the pledge class of 2013, is the key piece of evidence in determining whether PBE’s activities qualify as hazing.
The fraternity’s decision to proceed immediately with their IFC hearing stemmed from a confidence that they would be absolved of wrongdoing and allowed to resume Rush activities. Yet according to IFC president Ryan Schoen ’11, “This wasn’t even a gray zone,” and the IFC’s Judicial Committee’s (JudComm) decision indicates that they agree. PBE’s suspension, then, points to a lack of common understanding over what is considered hazing and thus punishable.
The vigorous defense of PBE by their alumni, and the diametrically opposed stance of the IFC, cannot reach a resolution until the community is aware of the details of the incident. All the letters in the world to President Hockfield about how PBE produces great men and have a long history on campus won’t spur the administration to action; PBE is governed by the IFC and their only chance at reinstatement is to have the fraternity presidents convince the IFC and JudComm to reconsider the decision.
We understand that the document may contain secret ritual activities, and suggest that PBE redacts part of the documents that are irrelevant to the case and ask the IFC to confirm that the remaining parts of the document, specifically those dealing with the alleged hazing, are genuine.
Besides the potential benefit for PBE, the release of the document would be a learning experience for the entire Greek community. Until the details are known, all fraternities will wonder if their activities, when written down and examined by a judicial board, count as hazing. And as some of the PBE alumni point out, nobody has come forth and claimed to have been hazed. The line which the IFC sees as very clear needs a real definition, lest every fraternity live in fear. The IFC consistently refers to Massachusetts law regarding hazing, but the legal description ranges from causing “extreme mental stress” all the way to whipping, beating, and branding as concrete examples.
So, PBE, perhaps by the letter of the law you engaged in some form of hazing. But if you truly believe your punishment is unjust, your only reasonable path towards reinstatement in the next year relies on releasing all of your documents and details of the January incident, and having an honest discussion with the MIT community. You need to convince the community that, while you broke some rules and deserve some sort of punishment, your four year suspension is unreasonable and deserves adjustment. Winning in the court of public opinion will create an environment where other fraternity presidents can come to your defense, and a process of reconsideration can begin.
Because of his reporting on the PBE expulsion, Jeff Guo had recused himself from this editorial.