When Boston decided to impose a 49-person limit on gatherings at MIT fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups in the city last week, MIT extended the restriction to those in Cambridge and Brookline to “maintain equity among the FSILGs during new member recruitment,” according to Matthew D. Bauer, a spokesman for the Division of Student Life.
According to Interfraternity Council President Haldun Anil ’15, “The IFC did not suggest or push for the expansion to all FSILGs; the decision came from senior administrators.” He added that there was no word yet on when the restrictions would end for any FSILGs.
The limits, announced to fraternities last Wednesday, came after a female student unaffiliated with MIT survived a fall from a window at Lambda Chi Alpha during a party late Sunday, Aug. 31 during rush week.
That incident was just days after MIT told its fraternities that they could once again hold events at their houses exceeding their maximum number of residents, an apparent end to restrictions in place since Boston revoked fraternities’ assembly licenses after student fell four stories through a skylight in September 2013 at Phi Sigma Kappa. MIT gave its blessing to gatherings under much more generous caps (up to 249 people for some houses), citing a new policy for FSILG events introduced shortly before the start of rush.
Statements by members of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department to the Boston Herald this September, however, indicated that the city still viewed the assembly licenses as prerequisites for gatherings but had not received any applications for the licenses from MIT fraternities since January. The statement called into question whether MIT’s new event policy had ever provided legal justification for renewed events, and seemed at odds with MIT administrators’ assurances to fraternities that MIT and the ISD had been in “long and productive collaboration” regarding the matter.
In an email to The Tech, Tom Stohlman, a building code contractor hired through MIT’s Association of Independent Living Groups, indicated that some types of events do not need assembly licenses under normal conditions: “There are important differences between restaurants, bars, theaters, and other places of public assembly and having a party, dinner, movie night, or rush event among friends and acquaintances at one’s house. There comes a point when the crowd size and makeup makes the distinctions moot.”
It seems that the events policy introduced before rush aimed to keep FSILG events limited to those not considered instances of public assembly, but that the ISD raised new concerns after the incident at LCA. In his email to The Tech, Bauer did not answer questions about how the events policy was meant to interact with Boston law to mitigate the original restrictions from 2013.
Unlike the restrictions from 2013 that limited the number of people inside each fraternity house to the house’s maximum number of residents, the new restrictions set a hard cap of 49 people for gatherings at houses. Stohlman said that while he did not have direct knowledge of the origin of the 49-person cap, Boston building code often refers to a 49-person requirement for building egress systems to support.
He added that the limit varies among houses, sometimes exceeding 49, and said that while MIT’s new event policy recognizes the differences, “Boston’s limit now prevails.”