MIT fraternity removes illegal roof deck from which freshman fell four stories

Officials from MIT and the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity at 487 Comm. Ave. assured the Boston Licensing Board today there'll be no repeat of the September plunge that saw a new pledge fall through a skylight and wind up on the ground with remarkably few injuries.

The pledge himself wrote out a statement, provided to the board, that acknowledged "the absurdity of my own action" in jumping up on a plexiglass dome covering the skylight so he could talk to some girls during a party.

After the student was taken away, city building inspectors cited the fraternity for having a roof deck without a license and for illegal wiring on the deck. Police also cited the frat for the illegal deck - actually located on the roof of a neighboring apartment building also owned by the frat's alumni association - and providing alcohol without a license.

The licensing board decides Thursday what action, if any, to take. The frat itself pleaded for forgiveness, saying it's already been punished by an MIT fraternity discipline board that put it on probation until June of next year, ordered no parties at all until September of this year and no parties with alcohol until February of next year.

According to his statement, the student arrived at Phi Sigma Kappa around 9 p.m. on Sept. 11 for a party to welcome him and other new members. He said he grabbed a beer from a cooler around 10, then went up to the roof around 11:25, where he promptly noticed some women he wanted to talk to.

So, of course, he jumped up on the plexiglass dome, which, in his estimate, cracked about 3 seconds later, sending him plummeting down into a frat staircase.

He continued he felt the stair railings he bounced off, but does not remember hitting the ground. However, he said he remained conscious - and remembered to wiggle his toes to check for nerve damage and felt his abdomen for internal injuries.

Frat members, including one trained as an EMT, rushed to his aid. He spent two nights in Brigham and Women's.

In his statement, he adds he does not regret joining Phi Sigma Kappa.

In addition to removing the deck and repairing the railings the student damaged in his descent, the alumni association installed a lock to prevent frat members from getting onto the roof.


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I'd say the root cause of the

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I'd say the root cause of the problem is that the plexiglass was not strong enough.

All parts of a roof should be designed to support a person's weight. Even if a roof deck has a permit, and a person drinking a beer is over 21, a weak part of the roof is still dangerous.

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Looking at Google Earth

I notice that most of the roof decks at frats and independent living groups are long gone. I wonder if they just were too much trouble when roofs were redone? Or did Boston ban them at some point. I seem to remember that a lot of houses had them. TEP's purple bathtub was the best of them.

I do know that, in the mid-1980s, my house did build a legal, permitted roof deck. There were a number of design criteria and it had to be inspected before we could use it. There were minimum standards for how far from the building edges that it needed to be, how high the railings were and how they were constructed, how sturdy the deck itself would be, where supports were placed and how far it had to be from skylights or any other fall hazard. It was an interesting challenge to build it as all the pieces had to go up a ladder and through a hatchway, so prefabrication options were limited. There was also a requirement for a locking hatchway for security and limited access.

So, yes, the condition of that skylight could be an issue (a roofer or other maintenance person could fall through it, too), but I'm not seeing why they didn't build a deck to code, either.

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i used to live across the street

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Most of the roofs over there don't have a finished roof deck. I don't really know the laws behind it, but those guys (mostly MIT frats) across the way threw some serious parties up there. The unspoken rule on our side of the street was to not do anything too crazy during big events - marathon, bruins stanley cup run, etc. no undergrads really though so it was a bit more civil.

For the marathon a few years ago, they didn't really respect that too much and a swarm of cops climbed the fire escapes and kicked everyone out. It was pretty good entertainment for our side.

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Foregoing a roof deck means

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Foregoing a roof deck means your roof goes a lot longer before you have to work on it so it continues to keep the rain out. I don't know first hand about any of the fraternities, but I have heard second hand that some did away with their roof decks to save money.

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