An MIT fraternity on Bay State Road had to explain itself before the Boston Licensing Board today for an incident last month in which all non-residents were evacuated after police and fire inspectors found too many people inside, a two-story shower-head waterfall was drenching a marble staircase, and a kid popped open a can of Bud Light.
MIT, meanwhile, has put the fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, 97 Bay State Rd., on probation for the rest of the semester for the events of Sept. 3 to recruit potential pledges. Despite that, however, several MIT officials, and a veteran fraternity alumnus attended the hearing to support the frat.
After explaining how wonderful MIT fraternities are - one MIT associate dean testified that, on average, MIT frat boys have exceptionally high GPAs and that MIT frats are "not the stereotype that people often think about" - frat and MIT officials placed the blame for the underage-drinking issue on a party-crashing Harvard freshman.
Somehow, frat and college officials said, the Harvard kid found out about the party and showed up with a can of Bud Light hidden in his clothing. And somehow, despite a frat brother standing outside checking IDs, he got into the frat's first floor - where he popped open the beer just as two Boston Police detectives had arrived on scene after seeing a long line of young-looking people standing outside, officials said.
Phi Delta Theta President Timothee Schoen, while acknowledging the fraternity's "full responsibility," for letting the cross-town frosh get inside, said the kid never got upstairs to where the real party was - and wouldn't have, because another couple of fraternity members were on the first floor doing further ID checks.
The party itself "was completely dry," Schoen said. MIT officials concurred, noting MIT "alcohol compliance" officers paid several visits to the frat that night and found no other problems.
Schoen said the fraternity will be taking additional security measures to make it even harder for Harvard students another people who don't belong to enter the building in the future.
Yes, the fraternity had rigged up a two-story "droplet" shower, lit with strobes, Schoen said. It's important to have something truly exceptional during pledge week, and two members spent several hours making sure it worked perfectly and took steps to minimize splashover.
"I didn't feel like it was dangerous," he said.
Schoen testified after BPD Det. Daniel MacDonald, who told the board that the staircase "waver very slipper, and I did slip going down the stairs."
MIT also differed with police on whether the frat was overcrowded that night. Sgt. Det. Robert Mulvey testified his count showed 116 people inside the frat, far in excess of the 58 residents and guests that are the maximum allowed by its occupancy certificate. After taking his count, Mulvey requested a captain from Boston Fire to arrive; they then ordered everybody who wasn't a resident out of the building.
But an alumnus who sits on the frat's board said the building actually has a capacity of 200 people.
The licensing board decides Thursday what action, if any, to take. Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini seemed satisfied that the fraternity is working to prevent safety problems in the future: "Hopefully, we'll never see you again and you will graduate with your 3.9 cum or whatever it was and go on to invent great things."