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Boston indefinitely bans parties, large gatherings at MIT frats, sororities, other off-campus groups

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  October 22, 2013 04:23 PM

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Officials in Boston have placed an indefinite ban on parties and other large gatherings at MIT fraternities, sororities and other independent living groups that are located within the city.

The move comes about one month after an 18-year-old MIT student and fraternity member was injured during a party at a Kenmore Square frat house when he crashed through a skylight and fell four stories.

The frat house was issued several citations and officials announced they plan to crackdown on other potentially unsafe off-campus properties.

There are at least 18 MIT fraternities, three sororities and two independent living groups in Boston, according to a map showing the organizations’ locations, though the map appears to be missing a few houses. The map shows six frats, three sororities and two independent living groups in Cambridge. one fraternity and one independent living group in Brookline.

Two MIT administrators and leaders of an independent living association and an interfraternity council at MIT sent an email to the organizations Friday saying that until the city issues new inspection certificates for the Boston properties, they cannot host gatherings larger than the number of people who are legally permitted to live at each location.

And, Boston officials are "seriously considering" making the ban permanent, the email said. “So please, let’s not test them on this to find out. We know this is a challenge, but we need to work through it together, not fight it.”

The email said that any organization that fails to comply “may jeopardize their own dormitory license, as well as cause major adverse effects for all Boston FSILGs [or fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups].”

MIT officials said they are working with the groups to find ways to host planned social events in compliance with the ban, including by providing on-campus space for affected gatherings.

“MIT is well aware of the hardship this will pose for our Boston-based organizations, and it intends to do everything it reasonably can to help mitigate the impact on our organizations’ social programs and general operations while working with us to resolve the underlying safety issues,” the email said. “MIT will support our community during this temporary occupancy restriction.”

In the days after the MIT student fell through the frat house skylight in mid-September, officials at Boston’s Inspectional Services Department asked that each property “provide information justifying its current posted assembly occupancy figure,” or the number of people the property can host at parties and other events, according to the email.

A building safety facilitator for the Association of Independent Living Groups at MIT, collected that information for some, though not all, of the properties and presented it to Boston officials, the email said. The reports included some concerns about building exits as well as suggested occupancy and assembly limits.

But, city officials said that until occupancy reports for all of the houses are submitted and approved by the Inspectional Services Department, “the city cannot guarantee that [the] buildings are safe for any occupancy above the posted legal residential occupancy figure,” according to the email.

The email said that MIT officials “do not yet have a timeframe” for when the city will issue new inspection certificates that will include a “revised assembly occupancy figure,” or a number of how many people can be hosted for an event.

“We are working to help keep the process moving as quickly as we can,” the email said.

“In the interim, we ask that everyone in the FSILG community – students, alumni, and MIT staff – work cooperatively toward addressing this challenge,” the email added. “Please recognize that this issue came about because of ISD’s legitimate concerns about safety in our houses. We should not blame or vilify the city for this action; they are doing their best – as we all should – to insure that our students and their guests are safe in our houses.”

The email also reiterated a previous announcement to Brookline and Cambridge properties that – while not affected by the new restrictions in Boston – MIT is continuing to impose a temporary assembly occupancy limit of three times the legal residential occupancy for those houses.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at mjrochele@gmail.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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