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Faced with the possibility that assembly limits imposed on MIT’s Boston fraternities in October 2013 may continue through Rush week this September, the Interfraternity Council doubled down last week on a prohibition of the use of roof decks at all MIT fraternities in an attempt to ease tensions with the city of Boston.

The IFC has also put in place a provision that if Boston fraternities do not obtain licensure by Rush week, fraternities eligible to hold parties (those in Cambridge and Brookline) may do so only on Saturday of that week.

The assembly limits, enacted by the Boston Licensing Board, mandate that the number of people in an MIT Boston fraternity house at any time cannot exceed the residency limit, effectively restricting social gatherings and events.

The city of Boston has not specified a timeline regarding when licensure will be approved or what steps are being taken to expedite the process.

The “Temporary Open Air Spaces Rule Provision”

The “Temporary Open Air Spaces Rule Provision,” according to the IFC website, prohibits the use of “roofs, roof decks, balconies, and ledges” at all fraternity houses, except by maintenance personnel. The prohibition applies to all fraternities, including those in Cambridge and those which currently have licensed roof decks.

The punishments for violating this prohibition are stringent. The provision specifies that a first offense results in a “strong recommendation of social probation for a minimum of one year,” a second offense yields a “strong recommendation of organizational suspension,” and a third offense results in a “strong recommendation of organizational loss of recognition.”

Additionally, the provision says that “houses may be exempt from the policy with a written agreement from the FSILG office.”

The Association of Independent Living Groups enacted the same prohibitions in the fall of 2013. The recent motion by the IFC was a commitment to reinforce the policy.

According to IFC President Haldun Anil ’15, the primary reason for this restriction is to “ease the tension with the city until the situation can be sorted out.” He said that this tension arises from the fact that fraternities need a specific permit from the city of Boston in order to use roof decks. Many fraternity houses have unlicensed roof decks.

This provision was approved by over two-thirds of the attendees at the IFC President’s Council meeting last Thursday. Anil said that “fraternities understand that this policy is necessary in order to ease tensions with the city.”

Officers of a Boston fraternity, speaking with authorization of their president under the condition of anonymity, citing possible consequences from the IFC, expressed concerns regarding the generality of this legislation. They pointed out that many fraternities have invested a great deal of money in their roof decks, and some have even made sure to obtain the proper licensure. One said that restricting all fraternities from using their own space is “unbelievable,” and that “if [a roof deck] meets code, it should be approved. If it doesn’t meet code, it should not be approved.”

The “Temporary Recruitment Rule Provision”

The other policy recently passed by the IFC is the “Temporary Recruitment Rule Provision.” According to the IFC website, this provision states that if Boston fraternities do not have licenses to hold events and gatherings by Rush week, then all fraternities which are able to hold parties (those not in Boston) can only do so on Saturday, Aug. 30 during Rush week. The policy applies to fraternities in both Boston and Cambridge.

Responding to concerns that new students will not get a complete impression of fraternity parties in just one night, Anil commented, “In the past, Saturday has been a popular night for fraternities on both sides of the river to host parties; freshmen tend to go from party to party on the same night.”

This restriction will be voided if Boston fraternities obtain the proper licensure before Rush week.

Rush week looms

According to Anil, one of the primary issues in the licensing process is that the city of Boston has not been specific about regulations, making it difficult to move forward. “We’ve stressed the importance of getting the licenses back before Rush,” said Anil. “The IFC, FSILGs, and MIT administration are working hard toward that goal.”

Anil added that the IFC hopes to “make a contingency plan in case we don’t get the licenses before Rush week.”

The aforementioned Boston fraternity officers also stressed the necessity of lifting the restrictions by Rush week. “The really important thing for us is to get well-rounded students,” said the officers. They said that because Rush week is crucial for fraternities to make a lasting impression on new students, the assembly restrictions will make it hard for fraternities to represent the diversity and values that Greek life brings to MIT.

These officers said that a major cause of delay in obtaining licensure is ambiguity in the laws and licensing procedures. “One of the main difficulties that the IFC and fraternities are facing is that frat houses are installed and licensed as dorms. There’s a gray area in the code that dorms are not necessarily given a formal occupancy limit. The issue at this point is that the [Inspectional Services Department] is failing to address that there’s a hole in the code that is very specific to our living situation,” said the fraternity officers. “What we’re looking for is that this gray area gets resolved.”

The fraternity officers also feared that new students will get the impression that Greek life is under-supported by the MIT administration if the restrictions continue through Rush week. “I’d have gone to a different school if I got the impression that there was such a lack of support for the fraternity community,” said one officer. “This could have a serious effect on kids wanting to come to MIT in the future.”

Fraternities and the MIT administration

Regarding the regulations, the city of Boston directs communication to the MIT administration, the MIT administration communicates with the IFC, and the IFC communicates with individual fraternities. Anil noted that “individual fraternities, in terms of student leadership, haven’t been directly involved. However, the IFC has been gathering feedback from house leadership.”

The aforementioned Boston fraternity officers said they felt they lacked direct input into the situation. “Our role is to basically abide by the rules and not get in trouble,” one officer said. They also said that, in regards to obtaining licensure, the MIT administration and individual fraternities have two different agendas. “The MIT administration doesn’t understand fraternity culture; they’re just looking to meet housing needs,” said the officers. “We feel that there’s no one with a vested interest on our side,” another said.

Anil said that “given all the restrictions we’ve faced and continue to face, it’s easy to get disheartened, but it’s important for the community to keep a positive attitude.” Anil said that the IFC is hoping to reestablish a state of normalcy within the fraternity community, but with a higher focus on risk management and making sure that houses are safe for all brothers and guests. “We may have to be more limited, more managed in terms of risk, and stringent about how many people to let in [to events at fraternities],” said Anil. “We do not want to cause any reason for the city to think we’re unsafe.”

The aforementioned Boston fraternity officers are wondered what they could do to expedite the lifting of the assembly limits. “We’re dealing with a situation that was supposed to take a month or two, and has extended for eight or nine months, an entire school year,” one of them said.

“We want the MIT administration to make this a top priority because it affects directly about 25 percent of the student population, and close to 100 percent of the student body indirectly.”

Comments
1
MIT administration's lack of support for their fraternities is embarrassing in this matter.

The Boston Inspectional Services Department is illegally persecuting an entire system because of a single incident that occurred 9 months ago.

If Mayor Walsh truly wishes to improve student housing as he claims, he needs to step in and put the ISD back into line.
2
"the assembly restrictions will make it hard for fraternities to represent the diversity and values that Greek life brings to MIT." What are these values? If they are things like brotherhood, leadership, and community service, then it shouldn't be difficult for fraternities to recruit without having parties, because there are plenty of ways to showcase these values outside of the house. If house parties are their only recruiting method, then it would seem that the only value being displayed is partying, and I'm not sure why MIT or the city of Boston should support that. Think of rush week this year as a challenge to prove why fraternities deserve to be respected and supported- by showcasing their true values.
3
MIT fraternities are radically different from fraternities you'll find at any other school. That's a guarantee. They provide the campus with a mainstream outlet, which many incoming freshman look forward to. With 26 individual fraternities and 6 sororities, Greek life is itself diversity on this campus, being diverse from other living groups including dorms, ILGS, and other well known living groups all over campus and in the area. About half of the student body is involved in Greek life. Not everybody wants to coop themselves up in a dormroom in hell for 4 years. While I acknowledge that dorms can have culture that encourages social interaction, it's not ideal for everyone; just as Greek life may not be suitable for everyone. About half of the student body is involved in Greek life. That means half of the student body is currently under supported by the administration. Let's just say, if I was an incoming college freshman and I observed the bans and lack of support that MIT students have had to deal with this, I would have gone to Harvard to be tormented by all those freakin liberals than gone to MIT and be unsupported when I ask why I can't have any of my buddies over even though my fraternity has stayed on the right side of the law. It's like East Campus being shut down for a Baker party gone bad. It doesn't make sense.

I realize how the licensing in Greek life living facilities isn't up to MIT, but the functionally challenged ISD, but come on MIT administration! You try to bend me over everyday! The least you could do is poke the ISD to hurry things along instead of hiding behind your edx projects and shallowly crying "nerd pride" to make up for an apparent lack of social skills.

And as far as the IFC goes, I've never seen so many decisions made out of cowardice. We are just fighting the ISD. No one even heard of them before that time someone went skydiving.

MIT administration, IFC, and Greek life community, it's to sack up, put your balls on the table. The lack of real support for students is embarrassing. MIT would give more support to Greek life composed entirely of robots because it sways that way. Sorry, MIT. We're not robots born in your labs, we're the real people who live on your campus, work in your labs, make you who you are. Cut the bull crap and pay attention to us for once.
4
As an MIT student who has observed this from a distance, the little support that MIT has given this issue is actually ridiculous. MIT gives more support to minority initiatives than it does its own students. Heck, MIT gives more support to its online students on edx than it does its real students. If I were one of the MIT head gurus, I would be embarrassed about this entire situation. Sure, embarrassed as to how it came about, but even more embarrassed about how the plain ignorance paid to it. These aren't southern Greek societies that brand the letters into your ass. These are Greek societies consisting of MIT students, your MIT students that one day might not give back to you as alumni since they remember how much their college sucked for entire year and you did nothing about it. MIT admins, get some people skills and help your students.
5
The IFC needs to grow a pair. The IFC at any other normal school would have already staged multiple demonstrations to make the ISD shake it their boots. What, have you never gone up against controversy before? Get your thumbs out of your bums and quit sucking Boston's ISD's.
6
MIT needs to get its head out of its own ass. MIT has a long history of standing behind its students and it is because of this that MIT undergrads and alum use to love this school. ihtfp. It really is suppose to have two meanings but this new administration is truly making me hate this fucking place. MIT admins have become so self absorbed with becoming with global leader in public education and innovation that they have completely disregarded the exact people who drive all of these initiatives, the undergrads. What kind of leaders is MIT going to be producing 4 years from now when the only kids that come here are complete boners because there is no life outside of the classroom. And undergrads - start speaking up. If this were any other school the students would be picketing and tying themselves naked to Reif's car.
7
Hey IFC guys, please stop acting like you're only on the IFC for your resumes. Seriously, you should be the voice of Greek Life. Stop acting like a beaten dog.
8
This comment was removed by The Tech pursuant to our comment policy.
9
"The assembly limits, enacted by the Boston Licensing Board, mandate that the number of people in an MIT Boston fraternity house at any time cannot exceed the residency limit, effectively restricting social gatherings and events."

I'm pretty sure that this borders on violating the right to assemble under the 1st Amendment.

As an alumni and product of the fraternity system, I am deeply disappointed with MIT's conduct. There is a war on fraternities, and MIT has jumped on in to create a hostile environment for its students. In the name of "safety", MIT and Boston are treating men like boys and are destroying individuals' freedom to use their own property.

The fact that they extended the ban to balconies, etc. is beyond unreasonable. There is no reason to prohibit the use of structures that are up to code, especially for everyday use by fraternity members. These are MIT students, some of the brightest and most responsible people in the world, not children.

MIT puts a lot of demand on its students academically, which makes it difficult for them to actively push back on the administration. Yet, if the IFC keeps bending over to the will of the nannies, I fear fraternities will eventually die. Fraternity members need to actively protest, bring out the Gadsden flags, etc. The IFC needs to actually represent its members, and the MIT needs to get behind the IFC to support its students.

While I doubt it will make much of a difference, I refuse to donate anything to MIT as long as it treats its students like children. I urge alumni of the fraternity system to do the same, and divert any donations directly to their respective fraternities instead.
10
Also, did nobody commenting on that article see the Boston Globe expose that went out a couple weeks ago? I have to admit that I was somewhat frustrated by ISD's behavior as well, and I was (at least for a while contemplating talking to the Office of General Counsel about whether there was anything MIT could do to exert pressure on Boston over the whole assembly situation.

That said, once the Boston Globe piece came out the whole thing made sense; ISD's been fighting a hopeless battle with a cadre of slumlords who've been making a living providing dangerously substandard off-campus housing for undergrads at absolutely ridiculous prices. You've got a whole pile of working- and middle-class people who are getting priced out of their neighborhoods while 2- and 3-bedroom units that are at least as run down as the projects are renting for 3-5000 per month, and then every so often someone like Binland Lee gets killed because there wasn't any oversight to begin with. According to the Globe, the expose was in the works for the better part of nine months, meaning that the skylight incident happened around the same time that ISD was trying to build momentum toward stepping up enforcement. I'd be unsurprised if that incident put FSILGs on ISD's radar in a bad way, and I'd argue that we've gotten swept up in an initiative beyond our pay grades.

I'd also argue that Marty Walsh and ISD are having to deal with the same sort of pent-up frustration from regular Bostonians as IFC is catching from you all here, except that there are many more angry Bostonians than Greeks (and they have more leverage than we do). From what I can tell, Walsh seems to be trying to use the off-campus housing issue as a way to address a bunch of quiet complaints about gentrification; he seems to have made fixing it the Big Deliverable of his first term. It looks like we're not up against just an overreaching ISD but rather we're currently stuck on the wrong side of a major citywide issue because Phi Sig fucked up.

I also have no idea what kind of leverage (if any) we have over Boston. I don't think we pay taxes to Boston (I'm not sure we pay taxes because we're a nonprofit), I don't know of any Nice Things that we do for the city that we could hold over their heads and have it work (instead of turning into tit-for-tat or outright backfiring), I don't know whether we donated anything to Marty Walsh's campaign, and I have no idea if we're in any position to lobby our way out of this.
11
The commentary above by Adam R reveals the real political quandary we find ourselves in. I wish we could get some insight as to the political pressures (from both inside and outside the institute) that would make the IFC feel it necessary to force every fraternity, including Cambridge-side ones unaffected by Boston limitations, into the same harsh penalty system. Tech, step in and do some real investigation! We deserve to know what's going on behind the scenes.
12
"They pointed out that many fraternities have invested a great deal of money in their roof decks, and some have even made sure to obtain the proper licensure. "

Some have even made sure to be licensed? Congrats!

Ok, sarcasm aside, can someone clarify this for me? It honestly sounds like a lot of the fraternities throw a lot of money at parties and building amenities that are not all completely legal. If I owned a brownstone on Beacon and wanted to build a roof deck, I'd most certainly have to get a permit for it. If my neighbors saw the roof deck and complained, I'd have repercussions from the city. If I threw a giant rager in my brownstone, I would get noise complaints (have definitely done and experienced that in my Cambridge apartment). To me, it seems like MIT fraternities get a ton of special treatment and bending of the laws in their favor. What exactly is the war being waged?

As an aside, I will say that looking back, to generalize that 18-22 year old males are responsible enough to take care of themselves is giving that demographic a lot of credit. There's a reason that it's the most expensive group to buy auto insurance for. I think there's enough history at MIT of fraternity gathering leading to injury or death that we can be wary.
13
OldBeaver, it's not constructive when you make generalizations like the one you just did. We occupy and maintain buildings that are incredibly old and the costs for doing so are not insignificant. The article above did us a disservice by falsely portraying our adherence to local regulations as optional. My fraternity takes these things seriously because we care about the safety of our members and their guests. What we ask for is not special treatment, we own our property, we pay for its maintenance and licensure and therefore ought to be able to use it as we see fit. We respect our neighbors requests for quiet, but when your neighbors are other likeminded young people who'd rather their neighborhood be a festive one, arbitrary enforcement becomes nothing more then an exercise in suppressing culture.

MIT fraternity culture is as varied and expressive as the dorm culture here at the institute. Be skeptical when someone like OldBeaver attempts to generalize across the whole.
14
Francisco: reading over my post, I see how I generalized. That wasn't my intent. In defense, as you point out, the article makes it sound like those that follow the permitting process are in the minority. So I was talking about those that don't adhere.

I agree that it's not fair to persecute the whole based on the poor decisions of the few. Let's be clear, though, the IFC's proposal to have parties only on the Saturday of rush are an attempt to make the rush process more equal, assuming the city of Boston remains unmoved on the matter. Imagine if the Cambridge and Brookline fraternities were allowed to host parties all week while the Boston fraternities aren't. That would hurt those dozen or so houses even more than Boston is doing.
15
Thanks to everyone that commented on the article. We understand that a lot of you are frustrated with the current state of affairs and want to see more information on the subject.

To try to bridge the information gap, the IFC will be hosting a Town Hall style meeting tomorrow, on Friday May 16th starting at 4:30 pm in 1-190. For the first hour, we will have representatives from the AILG, the FSILG Office, and Residential Life and Dining answer any questions regarding the status of the Boston situation and all applicable regulations. In the second hour, we will have a students-only session where the IFC will respond to questions from the community. All fraternity members are invited to attend.
16
Is only MIT involved here or are all Boston Frats, sororities and leaving groups involved?
17
All of the MIT FSILGs are involved, and only MIT is involved; MIT is the only school that has university-licensed FSILG housing in the City of Boston. As this http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/specials/shadow-campus shows, however, all non-dormitory student housing in Boston is currently under scrutiny (even though MIT FSILGs are technically "dormitories" per their licenses).

Hope that helps!