Party ban expanded to all fraternities, sororities, and ILGs as Boston, MIT seem at odds

Large parties and gatherings are once again effectively banned at MIT fraternities, campus officials announced Wednesday afternoon, three days after a woman was injured in a fall from a window at the now suspended Lambda Chi Alpha.

After a year of tight restrictions from the city of Boston, MIT finally gave fraternities its blessing to hold parties last week, just in time for rush. But Boston officials were on MIT’s back again following the incident on Sunday.

The woman who fell, a student not affiliated with MIT, was reportedly “intoxicated,” according to MIT Police logs, which listed the incident as alcohol-related. MIT prohibits alcohol at fraternity events during rush, which began last Saturday.

For now, gatherings of more than 49 people are forbidden at all MIT fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, according to an email from Robert Ferrara ’67 and Dean Henry Humphreys at MIT’s Division of Student Life.

The announcement came less than a week after the MIT FSILG office and student leadership told fraternities that similar restrictions from 2013 on gatherings at Boston-based MIT fraternities had been lifted.

“Good News!” was the subject line of the email last Thursday from Interfraternity Council President Haldun Anil ’15. “All fraternities across campus will be allowed to have large events during rush and onwards.”

MIT backtracked on that position Wednesday after Boston officials met with MIT.

The FSILG office and student leadership had introduced a new internal MIT policy on social events meant to ease the restrictions from 2013 put in place by Boston officials, but it was unclear whether the new MIT policy was ever in line with city regulations, or how an Institute decision was supposed to override city rules.

The Boston Inspectional Services Department did not respond to The Tech’s requests for comment on Thursday.

A spokesman for MIT’s FSILG office and Division of Student Life would not say whether they had coordinated with Boston on the new internal policy. He also would not say why MIT decided on Wednesday to restrict parties and events at all fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups — in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline — rather than just those in Boston.

Last October, the Boston Licensing Board had revoked the assembly licenses of MIT fraternities in the city after a student fell four stories through a skylight at Phi Sigma Kappa. The board’s move meant that no more people could assemble inside a fraternity house than could live in it.

Anil told The Tech last week that Boston had refused to reinstate the licenses multiple times, indicating it was unlikely to grant them for non-commercial operations.

The city’s cap appeared to be lifted last Thursday when student leaders and the MIT FSILG office introduced a more generous formula for determining house capacities just in time for rush. Anil said the new internal policy, which introduced procedures for event registration and risk management, was a proactive effort to “enforce the safety of social events ourselves,” but had not been reviewed by the city.

The fraternities even received an email from Anil on Aug. 29 listing the “social event assembly number” of each house, reportedly calculated by architect Tom J. Stohlman ’76 under the auspices of MIT. The numbers ranged from 98 to 288.

The Sunday incident at LCA “resurfaced the issue of assembly numbers” at Boston’s Inspectional Services Department, which told MIT officials Wednesday that gatherings of 50 or more people would require special event permits, according to Ferrara and Humphreys.

“If you want to have a party of 50 people or more, you have to get what’s called an assembly occupancy,” Buddy Christopher, commissioner of the Boston Inspectional Services Department, said to the Boston Herald. “The assembly permit is something we take very seriously. We’ve asked for this back in January and we never got anything.”

This seemed at odds with what Humphreys and Ferrara wrote in their email: “Throughout our work with ISD over the last year, MIT expected the processes and procedures under development would respond to the concerns ISD raised about assembly numbers.”

The MIT officials said they would continue to work with the city. They also met Wednesday with leaders of FSILGs, many of which had events for new members and pledges scheduled for this weekend.

The MIT chapter of LCA is now under suspension by both its international organization and MIT. In an email to fraternity leaders Wednesday, Anil said LCA could not rush, extend bids, or promise future bids to students during its “temporary suspension” pending an investigation.

Anil also said that an investigation of the LCA incident would be led by Associate Dean for Student Life Judy Robinson, but that no one from the FSILG office would be involved “[i]n an effort to ensure that the investigation is unbiased.”

According to The Boston Globe, Boston Inspectional Services did not find any building code violations during an inspection of LCA Tuesday morning.

This is an updated version of an article first published online on Thursday.

Eyas '13 over 9 years ago

Make no mistake, this is not only a party ban, but an assembly occupancy ban. Limiting houses assembly occupancies to 49 does not only stop them from being able to have parties, but it prevents many FSILGs from any normal operation.

Many FSILGs have membership numbers above 49. By disallowing assembly of over 49 people, chapter meetings, initiation events, lectures, talks, and house dinners become impossible.

Calling this a "party ban" doesn't do justice to the harm that could be done to a community that supports more than 25 of the student body.

Anonymous over 9 years ago

1: People falling out windows is pretty harmful to the community.

Eyas '13 over 9 years ago

Absolutely, which is why "party ban" sounds perfectly reasonable but "assembly ban" does not.

If you want to protect the community then impose limitations on risky behavior, parties, events with alcohol, events with loud music, etc. until you figure out how to properly manage their risks.

To limit the number of individuals in a building affects meetings, dinners, lectures, etc., essential 'events' for a large part of the student body.

(A side point worth mentioning is that risky behavior happens in dorm parties, room parties, apartment parties, etc., not just FSILGs. I understand a few incidents have gotten a lot attention recently, but these affect 2-3 FSILGs out of 38. To say that FSILGs need restriction until further risk control can be achieved puts disproportionate attention on FSILGs-- the questions about safety being brought up here are relevant to all assemblies in many settings, not just FSILGs.)

Anonymous over 9 years ago

3 - Fraternities have disproportionately represented these types of risk. You're either playing dumb or an actual moron; either way, you lose all credibility.

Eyas '13 over 9 years ago

Ad hominems aside, I'm not sure this is right in the case of MIT. Granted, my experience only involved anecdotal evidence (and I wager yours does also), but in terms of accidents, hospitalizations, etc., were not taking place disproportionately at FSILGs. You might be right, but I don't think you have the data to dismiss the counterpoint as moronic.

Anonymous over 9 years ago

When was the last time someone fell out of a window or down a skylight in a ILG or dorm? This is definitely an MIT frat issue.

Anonymous over 9 years ago

I know of a couple of window accidents from 2010-2012.

As for skylights, I'll concede that its an FSILG problem. The reason that you don't here about these accidents in dorms is because MIT officially restricts access to roofs. Roofdecks and skylights are a problem in student-run houses. Restricting FSILG access to roofs, for instance, is not disproportionate, it is simply giving them the same restrictions that dorms technically have.

Anonymous over 9 years ago

As the parent of a senior MIT student in a fraternity, and not one of the fraternities where the incident occurred, I was deeply concerned to learn that all fraternities were again limited in their capacity to assemble and have parties. This seems inherently unfair, that the majority are penalized for the actions of a few. When my child entered MIT, I was not a fan of fraternities, and was surprised that at every single MIT parent event we attended we were encouraged to let our children join fraternities. That MIT was a stressful place, and they needed an outlet. We were all told by MIT administrators that their leaders come from the greek life. That the highest GPAs were found in the FSILGs. As a parent, I've watched my son develop leadership capabilities, engage in socially responsible activities that help the community, and develop a wonderful group of close friends. My son's frat provided food and showers to people after the Boston Marathon attacks. My son loves to grill and cook for his frat. And yes, my son loves to plan socials and get togethers with other living groups. I've learned that the fraternity, for my child, was the difference between a more balanced MIT experience and a more stressful, isolated experience. It's provided him with a wonderful peer group, that have each others backs. I understand that the frats need to make the buildings up to code, that there is a need to limit alcohol consumption. These are bright students, educate them on responsible alcohol use. But to blatantly punish all living groups because a few kids are out of control makes no sense. MIT kids need opportunities for social interaction. Fraternity life isn't for everyone, but for those who choose it, it may be the reason they are successful at MIT. By all means, make sure each building is up to code. I understand making rules about noise level or inappropriate use of alcohol. Which by the way should apply to ALL students, not just the living groups. But to limit the number of people that can assemble to the number of people in the house is insane. Last year at parents weekend, the kids technically couldn't even have their parents to brunch. MIT expects alot from their students, in return the students expect MIT to stand up for them. I urge MIT and Boston to apply sanctions to the groups who broke the rules, not to the entire community enmasse. These sanctions are beyond unjust. They limit the ability of the FSLIGs to conduct their normal business.

TauIotaMu over 9 years ago

"At a meeting in January, city officials said the student groups could apply for 'assembly use' permits in order to host large gatherings again.... No applications had been submitted for any of the student organizations' properties, ISD spokeswoman Lisa Timberlake said."

"Buddy Christopher, commissioner of the Inspectional Services Department ... said when ISD building officials met with MIT representatives in January, they asked the university to file a building application and drawings for all properties requesting 'assembly use' permits, but they never received any applications."

(Globe, Sept. 3; Herald, Sept. 3.)

Anonymous over 9 years ago

7 - Source? I was at MIT during those years and don't recall them.

Eyas '13 over 9 years ago

10- Unfortunately, no source. I don't remember seeing anything in the Tech-- it was issues in dorms that I knew about through friends and friends of friends. They were handled Medical/CDSA without much reporting, respecting the privacy of the involved (as they should).

So yeah, I understand I'm giving anecdotal evidence that might not be sufficient for you..

Anonymous over 9 years ago

This article has what appears to be an editorialized title. Either the Tech doesn't understand the nature of the ban at all, and is describing it as a 'party ban' out of ignorance, or it is labeling it as such to garner support for the policy by duping the MIT community into thinking that it simply a 'party ban.'

Anonymous over 9 years ago

Anon #9: I know MIT did attempt to submit drawings and applications to ISD, I'm not sure why ISD said these were never received. If ISD said they weren't sufficient, that would be fine, but MIT certainly attempted to apply. MIT hired two architects and a code consultant who met with ISD several times and submitted drawings/applications.

MIT, DSL, and FSILG alumni volunteers have put a lot of effort in resolving this issue and address ISD's concerns. The complaints you see here are not to say that ISD's initial concerns are invalid (they are valid), but that the process to resolve these complaints has been filled with hurdles, bureaucracies, and miscommunications that have an impact on the undergraduates living in these houses.

TauIotaMu over 9 years ago

13: Thank you for giving the details about the meetings with the ISD officials. I'm making a public-records request and can post their response here by next Thursday.

Anonymous over 9 years ago

#6, There have been non-fraternity falls documented in the MIT press, based on just the first page of an internet search.

There is a young lady paralyzed during a balcony collapse:

There was an MIT student who fell from a Wellesly student center balcony and was injured:

There was a student who fell from a Senior House balcony and died:

I am also a parent who has a son in a (different) fraternity which worked very diligently to bring the building up to any and all codes. Like #8, I was very unhappy to see this broad brush approach to all of the living groups as a result of what could have been the behavior of one visitor. I do not have all the facts and was not there, but I trust MIT and the police to investigate appropriately. In the mean time, it does not seem appropriate to prevent meetings for all of the groups. Punishing the masses due to the decisions of one or a few, does not positively bring about change for those not related to the incident at hand. Does everybody do a lap every time one person screws up? Is this supposed to use peer pressure? How on earth can the brothers at ABC know what is happening or be held liable for what happens over in XYZ? I didn't need to ground all of my kids for the when one broke the curfews.

Echoing #8, although initially reluctant to support my son joining a fraternity, I trusted his decision because I trust his judgement. I have seen first hand how this has helped him to learn about career development including job offers, to work responsibly with many various authorities, how to pull together as men to support an ill brother and his family, and how to be a mentor himself.

As an MIT parent, I would like the administration to adjust this punishment and make it appropriately targeted.

Anonymous over 9 years ago

15 - Seriously? This is a concern about students being stupid in places under MIT jurisdiction. Two falls have happened at fraternities within about a year. The only fall you provide that fits the criteria happened over two decades.

Anonymous over 9 years ago

The rules regarding the alcohol prohibition were very clear and most frats adhered. Many students worked very hard to ensure that the frats were up to inspection and that the frats were adhering to the rules. Students spent time and effort conducting inspections of other frats to dissuade rule violations. But they are all being punished. Here is the thing....And this will be controversial and may seem harsh but it is simply right. If all frats are punished they have a right to know exactly what was found in the inspection. If students at Lambda Chi Alpha pissed in the face of their fellow students, everyone has a right to know that. Exactly what was found. Exactly who violated the alcohol rules. You can't punish hundreds of people without disclosing exactly who violated the rules and how. It can not be some vague idea that "rules have been violated". Everyone has a right to know who significantly changed the college experience of hundreds of students because they violated the rules that everyone else abided by after a year of working hard to ensure that frats passed inspection and were acting responsibility.

TauIotaMu over 9 years ago

Inspectional Services just sent a 14-page response to the records request.