Letters to the Editor
I am a Phi Bete. I have been a member since that warm Labor Day weekend in 1971, when two words, “I pledge” brought the ringing of a chime and an unexpected sea of hands all clambering to shake mine in welcome. It is among the most memorable moments my life, when an awkward, somewhat nerdy freshman was overwhelmed with an outpouring of genuine, unconditional friendship and acceptance. I knew I had become part of something unique and good but could not imagine how this fraternity would so profoundly influence what I would become in life.
But today, this wonderful fraternity, which has meant so much to so many, contributed so significantly to MIT and which, throughout it’s history, has served as a paragon of decency and community involvement is threatened by the reckless, uninformed and short sighted decisions of a few individuals in the IFC. It is not my intent at this juncture to debate these actions. However, I feel duty bound to defend my Phi Beta Epsilon for the sake of current and past generations of brothers who invested so much of themselves into this fraternity that it should thrive for many generations to come.
I am the 741st member of Phi Beta Epsilon, one in an unbroken line of MIT undergraduates, a line which began in 1890 and continues through to our newest members in the class of ’13 (our second class of ’13). We are a local to MIT and always have been. We are not a “chapter” of a diffuse and remote national fraternity — we are the whole book. Unlike nationals, every member of our fraternity has been to MIT and deeply understands its unique culture of engineering, science and innovation applied for the good of humanity. We are closely knit and dedicated to the Institute — we have to be as we only have each other and MIT. We have owned our home at 400 Memorial Drive since MIT moved from Boston. Fortunately, our early brothers had the prescience to see the long term value of investing in a vacant patch of landfill. Currently, our alumni leaders work extensively with our undergraduate brothers to help them manage house affairs and nurture their growth as young men.
Since 1977, I have chaired our annual reunions which first started in 1897. Each year these reunions bring together all classes and their families, including current undergraduate brothers, for a multi-day intergenerational exchange of memories, career perspectives and good times. Through this involvement, I have had the privilege of sharing almost a century of Phi Beta, and MIT, experiences and interacting with each succeeding group of undergraduate members. As a result, I can attest that this much is true — today’s undergraduate brothers, our “actives,” are among the brightest, most engaged, considerate, articulate and accomplished I have had the privilege of knowing. While they have grown to be a wonderfully diverse and inclusive group over the years, the fundamental values of brotherhood they embody have remained the same.
Phi Betes certainly owe a lot to MIT. The unparalleled education we received enabled us to pursue productive careers, become leaders in our respective disciplines, and make meaningful contributions to the quality of life across many segments of the global community. But, modesty aside, MIT has benefitted from Phi Betes as well. Across all years we have steadily served the Institute not only with our financial contributions but in service as members of the MIT Corporation, leadership in local alumni clubs, Educational Counselors, participants in the externship programs, and key supporters of programs such as MISTI, to name a few. The Reid Weedon ’41 award for alumni/ae relations was established in recognition of his dedicated work on behalf of students groups and alumni. Our brothers also serve in numerous faculty and staff positions throughout the Institute. And next time you work out, play squash, or try to improve your tennis game, think about Brother Al Zesiger ’51, the family of Brother David Flett Dupont ’56, and Brother Jasper Carr ’16.
Yes, I am a Phi Bete and proud of it. I will be a Phi Bete to the end.
Mark D. Beasman 75
PBE judicial process unjust
As three MIT and Phi Beta Epsilon alumni living in London, UK, we have been following closely the recent development with respect to the IFC’s decision to suspend our fraternity for four years. After reviewing all the relevant information made available to us, we would like to express our deepest concern and condemnation for the unjust suspension of our fraternity. Phi Beta Epsilon has always fostered a strong sense of community and support for MIT at large. From the founding of the fraternity in 1890 to today, countless numbers of PBE alumni have carried on the tradition of financial support and volunteer service to MIT. While we shared a sense of pride of MIT, the recent unilateral and prejudiced decision by IFC to suspend Phi Beta Epsilon is nothing short of a slap in the face for the loyalty many of us have demonstrated to MIT over several decades.
We demand and expect a full, unbiased, investigation by an independent panel into the allegations, as well as justification of the penalty levy upon our beloved home in Cambridge. We believe we have been unfairly singled out and discriminated against by IFC members, who carried ulterior motives to close the door on PBE.
We demand PBE Corporation be given the opportunity to argue its case in front of this panel, and be allowed due representation and opportunity to prove its innocence. It is unthinkable that 120 years of tradition of excellence and distinguished service to MIT will be erased by an inexperienced and faulty collection of undergraduate students from competing living groups, each with its own self interest against PBE’s continued survival and service.
This decision, if upheld, will tarnish MIT’s standing worldwide. We trust you will give this letter, and the many that no doubt will follow, the attention it deserves. Until an open and independent review is completed, we must withhold further contributions to or participation in MIT-related activities.
Lorenzo Levi 90, T-Y Hsia 90
and Senad Prusac 90
More thorough investigation necessary
As an MIT Alumnus and a member of the PBE fraternity community (’77), I would like to stand in support of the many sentiments so eloquently presented in previous letters forwarded to you from other PBE Alumni.
In addition, I would like to add that over the last three years, as architect of the future renovations to the PBE property, I have had the good fortune of getting to know the current “Active” members quite closely. They have impressed me as being some of the most responsible, mature, open, collegial, and engaged students I have encountered at the Institute in both my years as an MIT undergraduate and graduate student, and for seven years as a recent visiting associate professor in the Department of Architecture at MIT.
All of the current Actives make me proud of my association with PBE, and question the allegations promulgated by a flawed hearing with the IFC. The characterization of the PBE community and their alleged transgression of the Hazing Policy is at clear odds with the reality of the actions and character of the current actives and the nature of the initiation process. I, not a fraternal type to begin with, remember being repulsed as an MIT student by the idea of secret initiation rites. When actually confronted with them in my own initiation, which matches that of what I understand there currently to be, I was deeply surprised, impressed and moved by the emphasis on activities of “social service” rather than that of ugly adolescent behavior. It provided a very positive influence on me as a young initiate, and one which I believe the Institute can equally embrace.
PBE is in no way an “Animal House,” but rather a housing alternative where the students add to their many responsibilities to the Institute that of governance, management and collaboration required to maintain a large home and and cohesion amongst a multicultural community — not an experience that most dormitories can provide.
I thus kindly request that you seek a more thorough investigation of the accuracy of the allegations and appropriateness of the punishment. The future existence and growth of a vital and contributing PBE community is at stake, as is the respect of the fairness of the MIT housing system.
Alan Joslin 77