Beta Theta Pi (Beta) has been disbanded, a decision that was made by its local alumni association, advisory board, and the national organization. Members were notified of the decision on June 5 and were asked to move out of their house within five days.
Reasons for disbandment
According to Michael G. Feinstein ’82, president of the Beta alumni association, the decision to shut the fraternity down was based on two main reasons: low numbers and recent sanctions.
“First of all, [we have had] very disappointing rush results over the past several years where we’ve lost critical mass,” Feinstein said. Feinstein also said that running their house with such low numbers was difficult.
The MIT Interfraternity Council (IFC) put Beta under social probation, imposed heavy fines, and imposed rush restrictions after an alcohol violation during rush last fall.
“We’ve had a series of risk management incidents over the last few years, and we felt that in this environment — where we didn’t have enough people — there was a risk of another incident happening,” Feinstein said.
According to Feinstein, any additional incident would have resulted in the IFC kicking Beta off the campus for a long period of time. “We wanted to have a smoother landing rather than a crash landing, so we decided to act and put ourselves up in place for a well-organized fresh start in a few years,” Feinstein said.
Beta has been on declining status with the national fraternity and in “very low standing” with the IFC for some time, according to Feinstein. “They basically were one step above being shut down. They had written sanctions and goals from the national fraternity that were given to them in the fall that told them what they had to do. If they didn’t, they’d be subject to being shut down. They were nearly shut down by the IFC after their risk management incident in the fall; they received very severe sanctions from the IFC and significant financial fines regarding alcohol social probation. That was down from the suggested penalty, which was much harsher,” Feinstein said. “Their performance [on their national fraternity’s expectations] was one of the reasons why we decided to take the action.” Feinstein declined to comment on the specifics of the national fraternity’s written goals.
The alumni board had considered disbanding the chapter last fall after the IFC put Beta on social probation. “We considered it in the fall, but I think we made the right decision then to make it crystal clear what we were expecting from them, what progress we were expecting, and give them time to address it. And they were sincere in their desire to address it, I really think they wanted to, but I think they were victims of their own situation because their numbers make it tough,” Feinstein said.
According to the FSILG office, the chapter had 28 members, with eight graduating last month and three members initiated over the past year.
By the end of the spring semester, the alumni board “determined that they were not making enough progress,” Feinstein said.
Telling the Beta brothers
The brothers were told of the decision to disband their chapter during a meeting on June 5, the Sunday following graduation. “It was supposed to be a meeting to prepare for the summer, said Victor Nevarez ’12, president of Beta. “The chapter was to be disbanded, the reason being that we weren’t capable of sustaining a good fraternity. [They] didn’t believe the chapter was holding the values of the fraternity well enough.”
According to Nevarez, the brothers were not surprised about the decision, so there wasn’t much disagreement, but they were surprised by the timing of the decision. “The only thing people were really upset about was the short amount of time and the time that was chosen. The decision itself, everyone saw it coming. It was mainly the execution,” Nevarez said.
According to Nevarez, most were upset because they were not around when the decision was made. “A lot of people were out of the country or back at home. And people who were here had very limited time to move out to find somewhere to live,” he said.
Feinstein said that they chose June 5 because they didn’t want to disrupt the brothers’ academics. “It wouldn’t have been fair to them. We could have done it before graduation, but we didn’t want to spoil the day for those graduating. We decided to do it right after that, at the start of the summer, so that the guys would have the best chance to find a place to live for the summer and get in line for fall housing. I don’t think there’s ever a convenient time to take these actions, but we felt that this was the best option.”
Nevarez said that he would have preferred to be notified about a month before the end of the semester, “when people could have still chosen to live on campus and gotten a place on campus that they’d be comfortable with,” Nevarez said.
The FSILG and MIT Housing Office are working with the residents of the Beta house to get housing in the dorms for the fall. However, according to Nevarez, many of the brothers are being assigned to dorms that they do not prefer since they are requesting dorms later than the rest of the student population.
Vandalism to the house
According to Senior Associate Dean of Residential Life and Dining Henry J. Humphreys, the Beta house was vandalized a few days after the brothers moved out of the house. Detective Sergeant Craig Martin of the MIT Police is conducting an investigation of the situation. Martin could not be reached as of 7 p.m. yesterday.
According to Feinstein, the house was not broken into, but he did not provide any other comment.
Beta will begin with a fresh start in fall 2013. Unlike fraternities that are under suspension or have been expelled by the IFC, Beta will not have to reapply to become a fraternity at MIT. “We realize that they have a long history, and everybody will be working together to make sure they have a strong start that fall,” said Gordon W. Wintrob ’12, president of the IFC.
In the spring of 2013, a Beta representative from the national fraternity will be living in the Beta house full time. He will be “participating in Campus Preview Weekend, connecting with people on campus, and creating a positive presence for Beta starting at that time and looking to meet incoming freshmen,” Feinstein said.
Until then, rooms in their houses on 119 and 120 Bay State Road will be rented out to graduate students.
Beta alumni are planning on recruiting a founding house of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors all at one time when they return to MIT in 2013.