PBE & IFC spar over key points

Did PBE haze? Were the judicial proceedings fair?

Several details have surfaced regarding the Phi Beta Epsilon (PBE) suspension. PBE alumni continue to send letters to The Tech, Dean of Student Life Chris Colombo, and President Susan Hockfield. IFC president, Ryan Schoen ’11 said that the PBE hazing took place between last fall’s pledging, through and including initiation (January 2010).

PBE and the IFC continue to disagree on several key issues related to PBE’s suspension:

1. Hazing

IFC: “We follow the Massachusetts state law,” Schoen said. “Consent is not a valid excuse for hazing. … In this case, there was no ambiguity in the mind of the JudComm board members.”

“We had documents from PBE describing their initiation. They went through their initiation at the hearing describing everything that we had in front of us, and it was a unanimous decision from all the board members that they were responsible for hazing,” said Garrett R. Fritz ’11, chair of the IFC Judicial Committee.

PBE: PBE alumni, parents, and actives continue to say that they did not participate in any hazing activities. “We firmly believe we didn’t violate the Massachusetts Law,” Arjun Naskar ’09, former president of PBE and a current director of the PBE alumni corporation said.

“No one was hurt in this process. No one came forward with a complaint with this initial charge in the first place, no one came forward afterward as well,” Naskar said. There was “nothing physical and no complaint whatsoever.”

2. Alcohol Violations

IFC: A statement released by the IFC on Monday night referenced an alcohol violation during a “pledge activity or ritual.”

PBE: “Yes, there was alcohol present,” including a sealed bottle of Chartreuse, Naskar said. “It was for symbolic purposes. Any allegation of consumption, forced or otherwise, is patently false.”

He added: “PBE absolutely does not allow the consumption of alcohol by any brother or new member during the initiation process.”

3. Hearing was expedited

PBE: PBE alumni have expressed concern about the speed of the process. In a letter to The Tech, Steven Carhart ’70, chair of PBE’s alumni corporation said, “Why such a decision was reached in such a hurried manner with such a narrow scope of evidence and testimony is inexplicable.”

IFC: Schoen says that PBE signed a waiver giving up their right to have a week to prepare for their hearing.

“PBE requested and was granted an expedited judicial hearing. The judicial bylaws say that we have to wait seven days for a hearing to be held, so that the IFC can gather additional evidence and for the defendants to gather any evidence, make sure they have their case together so they’re not surprised by anything, but they chose to and signed a waiver to waive that right so the hearing could be held that same night,” said Schoen.

The waiver said that PBE waived their right to have seven days and the right to have a Procedural officer (FSILG Dean Marlena Martinez Love) at the hearing. There is no procedure for a waiver in the IFC Constitution, according to Shoen. However, they discussed the waiver with Love and decided it was okay from an administrative point of view because PBE had agreed to it.

4. Stolen Evidence?

PBE: Carhart’s letter says “an anonymous party provided the IFC Judicial Committee with circumstantial evidence stolen from our fraternity house.”

IFC: “We did take steps to corroborate the information that we find in the document and we did find it to be substantial,” Schoen said.

According to Schoen, PBE did not contest the authenticity of the document.

“Any complaint that we get, we’re going to follow through on, because the point of the IFC as a whole is to uphold their values and maintain accountability. So we’re less interested in how we get it.” Fritz said.

5. 60 day limit

IFC: “JudComm policies say that there are 60 Institute days between the time a complaint is filed and when we can follow up on it. There is no limitation for when an event happens. In this case, the evidence came in and we get 60 Institute days from that start time. Being that the implications of the evidence were so severe, they were put on interim action right away from the FSILG Office,” Fritz said.

PBE: The JudComm Bylaws “definitely make that distinction... about the 60 days being 60 days from when the violation occurs and they must try the case within 120 days of when the evidence is presented to them.”

IFC JudComm Bylaws say in Article VI(B): “Complaints must be filed within 60 Institute days of the violation. That deadline may be extended if legal or other extenuating circumstances require a delay. In case of extended delay, the accused organization(s) shall be notified of the likelihood of a complaint as early as possible.”

“Setting this precedent leads to a definite slippery slope. What’s an extenuating circumstance?” Naskar said.

6. A juror had a conflict of interest

IFC: Schoen said that the 4-person jury is randomly selected from those available at the scheduled hearing time. When they are informed of a hearing time, the fraternity involved is not mentioned. PBE submitted a request to not have certain fraternities represented in the panel because they were cross-rushing and they were worried that it would be a conflict of interest. Fritz dismissed this saying that it was not valid. It turns out that the request did not make a difference anyways because the randomly picked jury did not include those from the fraternities mentioned by PBE.

PBE: “[The biased juror] was told early in his rush that he would not be given a bid [to PBE], and that he should look elsewhere,” Naskar said. Naskar tried to bring this conflict of interest up during the hearing but was told by Fritz that he was not allowed to speak.

“In the appeal decision letter, it said, ‘You had every opportunity during the process to bring it up.’ But no, that was incorrect,” Naskar said. “The other speaking members at the hearing are ’11’s now. As an ’09, I knew that he had been flushed. The ’11’s were not necessarily aware of that fact. That’s why I tried to speak up, but I was denied.”

7. Communication from MIT and PBE

PBE: “Within an hour of that, they sent an email from Bob Ferrara [’67, Senior Director for Strategic Planning, Communications and Alumni Relations DSL] to our over 600-member alumni body. Within the same hour, a press release was put on the MIT News Office page. A few days later, parents received a letter from Dean Colombo himself. We were startled by the information before we could get it together to notify the rest of the brotherhood because there was no time. Within an hour, they all knew. They e-mailed the alumni body without the actives knowing. They mailed out to the parents without their sons knowing,” Naskar said.

Kerry A. Emanuel ’76, a professor of atmospheric science and PBE alumnus, said that he had heard from MIT before hearing from PBE.

IFC: Schoen and Fritz said they were not involved in the communication. The MIT News Office did not comment on the timing of the communication. David Kennedy (director of the Office of Student Citizenship), who was part of the appeals process, could not be reached for comment.