MIT frat closed for alcohol violation
One of the two Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity houses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been shut down after members allegedly served alcohol on Sept. 2 to an underage student from Wellesley College. The student was hospitalized from excessive drinking.
In a decision announced last Thursday, the Boston Licensing Board revoked the house's dormitory license after a hearing two days earlier. In addition to the charge of allegedly serving alcohol to a minor, the fraternity was also cited for allegedly obstructing stairwells and failing to post or produce its dormitory license.
No member of the fraternity attended last week's hearing. Following the Board's decision, MIT released a statement supporting the outcome and reprimanding the students' absence.
The statement said the Institute was "deeply disappointed" in the students' decision to not attend the hearing because they "must accept the responsibility for their actions and must understand that they will be held accountable -- by MIT and by the civil authorities."
Brothers of the fraternity opted out of attending the hearing based on the advice of Carl K. King, attorney of the alumni board.
In the wake of recent proceedings, SAE's national chapter has been communicating heavily with the local alumni board, and has been trying to allow as much latitude for the house and the corporation that privately owns the house, to operate as possible, according to Ben Lewis, SAE Manager of Media Relations.
At the moment, this "is just a housing problem that the local alumni will work out," Lewis said.
"The Licensing Board said that our [national] fraternity office has coddled this chapter, which is obviously false, but it admittedly has made some errors," Lewis said.
The fraternity consists of two houses located off the MIT campus at 480 and 484 Beacon Street. Thus far, the Board's decision only affects the house at 484 Beacon Street.
In a separate incident, another hearing is scheduled November 16 involving resident noise complaints from the SAE house at 480 Beacon Street.
"They've gotten in trouble with the University before, but the silver lining is that these guys are at MIT. We feel confident that with some proper training and education, this is a chapter that can rebound and be effective and hold to high standards," Lewis said.
Even prior to the Oct. 26 hearing, SAE's national office placed the MIT chapter on involuntary alumni commission, which requires chapters that demonstrate patterns of irresponsible behavior to undergo a mandatory membership review.
Internal investigation of the quality of membership requires an evaluation of each brother to see if he remains worthy of membership. If not, individual members could face suspensions or expulsions.
Lewis said this process of membership review has a high chapter rehabilitation rate of about nine out of 10 faced with alumni commission.
"It's an old chapter, and we're really proud of it. MIT is an elite educational institution, like Dartmouth, but it's unfortunate that chapters at wonderful institutions can have problems and that it's all coming down like this," Lewis said of the Board's decision.
Staff from the national office visited the MIT chapter prior to and after the alleged Sept. 2 incident.
"We want to work with chapters in an educational process to help them understand what they did wrong so it doesn't happen again," Lewis said.
Communication has continued among national staff members and the local alumni advisory board. Prior to the hearing for the alcohol incident, national staff members along with members of the national board of directors visited the MIT chapter for alumni events in Boston, but preparation for the hearing was also discussed.
"SAE is an invited guest on campus and want our chapters to operate with recognition from the University. They can remove that recognition, but no matter what happens we will [try to] work out an arrangement where SAE will be able to come back," Lewis said.
Lewis confirmed efforts of the national office to communicate with the MIT administration.
Whenever a chapter of SAE is subjected to disciplinary action, such as MIT, the national SAE office works with the institution to regain a good standing through proper guidance, Lewis said.
Based in Evanston, Ill., SAE is one of the largest national fraternities with over 210 chapters nationwide.
MIT's SAE chapter President Christopher Albrecht could not be reached for comment.