PBE suspension terms relaxed by MIT; IFC uneasy
PBE allowed to stay in house, remain member of IFC; new initiation plans in progress
The terms of Phi Beta Epsilon’s suspension have been changed as a result of a new agreement between MIT and PBE. MIT recently granted PBE the privileges to stay in their house at 400 Memorial Drive, to remain members of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) — although under probation — and to participate in rush starting in fall 2012 provided that they abide by the terms of their suspension and avoid future violations. The IFC did not sign or agree with the wording of the joint statement.
Joint statement by PBE and MIT
In a joint statement released on Friday, the Division of Student Life and PBE said that they “have resolved issues that were raised by the fraternity regarding a decision made this past fall by MIT’s Interfraternity Council.”
Neither MIT nor PBE were willing to speak about the specifics of the process which led to the joint statement, stating that they had “confidential discussions.”
The statement revealed that Chancellor W. Eric L. Grimson PhD ’80 will consult with various individuals, including the Chair of the Faculty, and will proceed to assemble and charge a committee to “examine FSILG judicial and other processes, especially as those processes relate to decisions about approved housing and recognition as a fraternity or independent living group.”
View from the IFC
The IFC also released a statement on Friday stating that the executive board “did not feel comfortable with the current wording and chose not to sign it.” They also said that “[the joint statement] is not sufficiently comprehensive and does not fully encompass the details surrounding this situation.”
IFC president Gordon W. Wintrob ’12 declined to comment on the joint statement made by MIT and PBE.
The previous executive board members of the IFC who were involved in PBE’s suspension were, for the most part, not part of this resolution, according to Garrett R. Fritz ’11, former chair of the IFC Judicial Committee.
As part of the modified suspension, PBE is once again a member of the IFC. However, the fraternity is on probation until 2014, meaning that it will not receive a vote in IFC dealings.
The statement said that PBE will be working with the IFC and the Dean of Student Life on a new anti-hazing education program open to the entire FSILG community. “It will be similar to Party Safe training. We hope that there will be more than just a few from each fraternity well-versed in the issue [of hazing],” said Kyle M. Knoblock ’11, president of PBE.
Moving forward: The new PBE
PBE is using their suspension period to “really redo and reinvent” the house, including both the physical house and their fraternity initiation process.
The biggest changes will be to PBE’s initiation process. According to President of the PBE Corporation Steven C. Carhart ’70, they will be starting “with a clean sheet of paper but keeping the goals.” Activities will be drawn from publicly available literature and trainings that have been proven effective in creating “intense bonding with groups of people.”
The most obvious change will be that the initiation events will be public, which is not typical for most fraternities. “What we do we will say. This is a change. The idea that there could be some misunderstanding because something was private … the surest way to make sure there’s no misunderstanding is that it’ll be out in the open,” Carhart said.
“There has been the perception that in the fraternity world, one can have a challenging or intense kind of experience or people have backed off of it. What we’re trying to do is have a series of challenges that will be intense and meaningful experiences but not possibly perceived to be hazing. We’re trying to break some new ground in that,” Carhart said.
PBE says that this change to making their initiation events known publicly was not part of their agreement with MIT. “This is entirely our choice. This is something that we want to do. It’s really what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to reinvent the notion of the fraternity for the 21st century,” Carhart said. “It’s a lifetime intergenerational social and professional network. That’s the idea — that it has elements of training and education that you get as part of a frat that complements what you get at MIT.”
PBE sees themselves as setting a precedent in initiation reform. “We plan on coming up with a new [initiation]. We would help others come up with initiation reform and make sure it’s not hazing,” Knoblock said. “There’s never a point when you take the time to sit down and really think about [hazing]. There could be hazing going on that never gets changed.”
Over the weekend, almost a hundred PBE alumni from all over the country came to meet the actives. “We worked on planning major renovation of the house. We’re in the middle of a big fundraising plan. Alumni are extremely interested in rebuilding the house,” Carhart said.
Renovations to the house have been planned for several years. Carhart estimated that the renovations would be finished sometime between 2012 and 2015.
“The outpouring of alumni and parent support are beyond belief,” Carhart said. “One of the things that has been really great is that this has brought undergrads and alumni much closer. We realized that if we didn’t work this out, then a lot that we worked for would be lost.”
“[The alumni] want to make sure PBE gets rebuilt and comes out strongly and better than ever,” Carhart said.