The IFC wields its power reasonably and responsibly
David Templeton asserted in Monday’s Tech that fraternities’ self-governance through the IFC is actually hurting fraternities. He argues that out of a desire to protect that self-governance the IFC is exceedingly harsh to members that violate its rules resulting in the IFC self-governance doing more harm than good. I find his assertions false on two grounds, first because in most cases the IFC is not exceedingly harsh and second because self-governance is an extremely important part of fraternity life.
On the first point, David argues that had any of the violations that fraternities are currently being punished for happened in a dorm, the administration would have been far more lenient than the IFC was to fraternities. He forgets that any IFC decision can be appealed to the MIT administration. In fact, the MIT administration approved the suspension of PBE but reduced the punishment from ten years to four. Furthermore, the IFC has clearly pre-established rules. The alleged violations were extremely serious — hazing by the IFC definition is an activity that endangers physical or mental health. Even more importantly, hazing is illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Furthermore, openly alcoholic parties during Rush send the wrong message about the focus of fraternity life. Asserting that these infractions deserved leniency only encourages irresponsible behavior and could lead to state government involvement and negative stereotyping of fraternities. Whether or not the allegations are true is a matter for an entirely different discussion.
Templeton asserts that the punishments exacted on dorms aren’t slaps on the wrist, but the reality is that they are not serious disincentives. The punishments for dorms are not predefined, and if leniency is expected it only creates an uncertain environment that leads to more rules being broken. If a dorm has an alcohol related medical emergency, the punishments are minor and serious consequences don’t occur till several infractions have accumulated. There have been floors with multiple cases of alcohol poisoning in a single semester, something that is almost unheard of for a fraternity. Fraternities have much stricter risk management policies with respect to alcohol in part because of the IFC. The fact that it is easier to get alcohol poisoning in a dorm than a fraternity should not be an example to follow.
A violation at one dorm does not reflect poorly on all the other dorms. Parents will not pressure their kids to live off campus in the wake of a dorm incident, they will simply tell them to choose a different dorm. Fraternities, on the other hand, face serious stereotypes that we must combat on a regular basis. We form an important part of the MIT community and provide a great deal of benefits to campus as a whole — something most people outside of MIT don’t appreciate. A fraternity that fulfills the stereotype reflects poorly on the rest and results in people making false assumptions about Greek life at MIT, something that can only harm everyone involved.
Finally, I don’t think David realizes how important self-governance is to fraternity life. One of the most important aspects of fraternities is the ability to be entirely self-defined. You choose who your neighbors are, how your living space is arranged — almost every aspect of your life down to the rules that govern you are entirely self created. This is something that most floors, let alone dorms, just don’t have. Dorm residents don’t have the final voice in who they live with and how their living space is organized. Worst of all, the rules that define what dorms can and cannot do are, for the most part, established by outside entities. MIT will make the decisions that are best for the administration and not necessarily the students (or fraternities). If you need evidence of that, simply look at the new dining plan. Why should fraternities voluntarily subjugate themselves to that level of control when we are doing well governing ourselves? Giving up your on freedom for theoretical convenience is a slippery slope no one should want to go down, let alone the fraternities who offer a level of responsibility and freedom that most college students don’t until after graduation.
R. Krishna Esteva ’13 is a UA Senator representing Fraternities and a brother at Theta Chi.