The MIT chapter of the Sigma Nu fraternity was granted permission to serve beer and wine at social events this week by the Boston Licensing Board, despite objections from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and City Councilor Michael P. Ross’s office.
Of the 19 fraternities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sigma Nu was the only one with restrictions on serving or consuming alcohol as part of their dormitory license, according to M.I.T. officials.
Marlena Martinez Love, the assistant dean/director of fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups at M.I.T., said in a statement that “since moving into 28 The Fenway in 1999, Sigma Nu has upheld a self-imposed policy restricting alcohol.”
“By removing the current restrictions on serving or consuming alcohol in their residence, Sigma Nu would be operating under the same alcohol policies as all other residential fraternities in Boston," she said in the statement.
The Sigma Nu chapter, which resides at 28 The Fenway, was granted a dormitory license by the board in April of 1999 under the condition that they maintain a no alcohol policy, according to M.I.T.’s student newspaper, The Tech. At the time, board members were hesitant to allow another M.I.T. fraternity to live at 28 The Fenway. In 1997, the M.I.T. Phi Gamma Delta chapter resided in the same house when freshman Scott S. Krueger died from alcohol poisoning, the Tech reported in 1999.
It is unclear whether the Sigma Nu chapter was an alcohol-free fraternity prior to moving into 28 The Fenway.
In 1997, The Tech reported that Sigma Nu national had decided to ban alcohol in its chapter houses, requiring that all chapters be alcohol-free by 2000. In the article, the President of Sigma Nu, Frederico Ardila, said the chapter was preparing to comply with the new policy. He said that more than half of brothers drink “very little or not at all.”
"Our house has several dry areas, and most of our social events are dry," Ardila said.
But Brad Beacham, the executive director of Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., said in a phone interview that by 2000 the national organization decided against making its chapters alcohol-free. The only Sigma Nu chapters that are not allowed to have alcohol in the house are those not in good standing, Beacham said. And he said that for as long as he can recall, the M.I.T. chapter has always been in good standing with Sigma Nu national.
“[The M.I.T. chapter] does a great job with risk reduction policy,” he said.
At the licensing hearing on Wednesday, the board expressed concerns about underage drinking at the house. A representative from Councilor Ross’s office and a representative from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services both objected to the petition, saying the fraternity did not clear it with them first.
Nicole Murati Ferrer, chair of the licensing board, said Wednesday that this is the first dormitory licensing request the board has heard in years, and its members planned to look very carefully at the petition, she said.
“This board doesn’t like to rubber stamp when we see a request for a substantial change,” she said.
Matthew Pires, a master’s student at M.I.T., was one of the representatives who spoke on behalf of Sigma Nu at the hearing. He said Sigma Nu hoped to obtain the license primarily so they could serve alcohol at alumni events.
Martinez Love also spoke at the hearing in support of the fraternity’s bid to serve alcohol.
“The undergraduates take the risk management quite seriously and the institute takes the follow up of risk reduction education and violations quite seriously,” she said to the board. “So we are here in support of this request.”
Murati Ferrer said the board decided to grant the request because of the fraternity’s good behavior over the years.
“They never got a violation, they complied, and they were alcohol free,” she said.
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