- STRONGER ACTION URGED IN MIT DRINKING DEATH CASE
- PI LAMBDA PHI CASE AWAITS WORD FROM PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT
- REVISITING THE PHI GAMMA DELTA IRS SETTLEMENT - PART I
- ALABAMA SHIFTS RISK OF HAZING TO PLEDGE
Newsletter > January 1999 > "STRONGER ACTION URGED IN MIT DRINKING DEATH CASE"
STRONGER ACTION URGED IN MIT DRINKING DEATH CASE
The November 1998 issue of Fraternal Law reported on e filing of criminal charges against the Phi Gamma Delta Chapter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scott Krueger, a freshman pledge of the chapter at MIT, died as a result of alcohol poisoning following a chapter party. Krueger was under the legal drinking age.
A grand jury in Boston, Massachusetts indicted the fraternity chapter for involuntary manslaughter.
Krueger’s death occurred in the fall of 1997 and between that time and the indictment, the fraternity chapter had gone out of existence. As a result, no one showed up in court to respond to the charges at an October 22nd hearing. It is not clear what, if any, further action will be taken by District Attorney Ralph Martin.
Joel Epstein, a senior associate and attorney for the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, an organization funded by the United States Department of Education, offers his view of what action should be taken in the column reprinted below that originally ran in the November 16, 1998 edition of The Boston Globe.
MIT fraternity getting off easy
District Attorney Ralph Martin’s decision to effectively drop prosecution of the MIT fraternity charged in the alcohol death of freshman Scott Krueger is both disappointing and discouraging to those of us fighting against binge drinking by college students.
Martin’s office recently said all it can and will do is seek a default warrant against the “unincorporated voluntary association” that ran the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity to which Krueger belonged.
The district attorney took that stand after no one from the now-defunct fraternity showed up in court Oct. 22 to answer involuntary manslaughter and hazing charges that grew out of a lengthy grand jury investigation.
These are odd words and actions from a prosecutor who says he is committed to vigorous criminal prosecution. As an attor ney, two questions come to mind:
What prevents the district attorney from seeking to bring the association’s officers into court by initiating criminal forfeiture proceedings against Malcolm Cotton Brown Corp., the alumni corporation that owns the valuable Fenway building that housed the fraternity?
Why hasn’t Martin used the legal doctrine of “piercing the corporate veil” to go behind the front of the unincorporated association and identify its officers?
In the interest of justice, the district attorney can and should do more than simply seek a default warrant Criminal forfeiture and exposing corporate responsibility are common prosecutorial strategies broadly recognized by both state and federal courts. Dropping the case is a disservice to the grand jury that spent so much time on it and returned the indictments. And it is a disservice to the memory of the young man who died.
Throughout the 11-month investigation of this case, MIT administrators sought to distance themselves from any legal or moral responsibility for the events that led to Krueger’s death, MIT’s position: It had no supervisory power over the fraternity or its members. So what? It should have been more diligent about what was going on.
To its credit MIT did move quickly to confront the problem of student drinking after Krueger’s participation in “Animal House Night” at the Phi Gamma Delta house in 1997 attracted national attention, Expanded substance abuse awareness programs and greater supervision of student social life should help prevent another tragedy from happening. (MIT now also requires all freshmen students to live on the Cambridge campus. Phi Gamma Delta was housed in a building in Boston’s Fenway section.)
But it is indeed unfortunate that criminal indictments and civil lawsuits are needed to make schools and fraternities understand the depth of the problem of unchecked high-risk drinking by students. They should initiate comprehensive prevention strategies before someone gets seriously hurt or dies.
DA Martin showed courage in investigating Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and the alcohol poisoning death of young Scott Krueger. His investigation had a profound impact on not only MIT but colleges and universities throughout the country.
But now that the court phase of the prosecution has hit a technical snag, he should not give up. This case needs the same vigorous effort with which it began. Scott Krueger, his parents, and the public deserve nothing less.
Joel Epstein is a senior associate and attorney for the Newton-based Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, an organization funded by the US Education Department.
NPC RESOLUTION SUPPORTS ALCOHOL-FREE HOUSING
The National Panhellenic Conference, composed of 26 women’s fraternities, has, for the second year in a row, endorsed the efforts of men’s fraternities to move to alcohol-free housing. The resolution which follows was adopted on October 17, 1998, at the NPC Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas:
National Panhellenic Conference
ALCOHOL-FREE SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
Whereas, An alcohol-free living environment provides cleaner, safer facilities which are conducive to student learning and where behavior consistent with fraternity principles can flourish;
Whereas, The Misuse of alcohol by college and university students detracts from the mission of higher education and endangers student health and welfare;
Whereas, Chapter housing for National Panhellenic Conference member fraternities has always been alcohol-free, and chapters have thrived in such an environment.
Whereas, The National Panhellenic Conference, The National Interfraternity Conference, The Association of Fraternity Advisors, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, the American College Personnel Association, the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, and The InterAssociation Task Force on Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse Issues have endorsed and strongly support the efforts to implement alcohol-free chapter facilities;
Whereas, The NPC member fraternities as 26 sovereign entities are united as a conference body in great concern about the dangers of alcohol that are pervasive in our society;
Resolved, That the NPC member fraternities will continue to support the efforts toward alcohol-free housing in men’s fraternity facilities with the goal being that the individual NPC member fraternities will work toward cosponsoring only alcohol-free functions in men’s fraternity facilities by the fall term of 2000.
Resolved, That copies of this resolution be distributed to every NIC fraternity and to the College Panhellenic Association, Interfraternity Council, the Greek Advisor and the Chief Student Affairs Officer of each college and university where there are chapters of NPC member groups.
(Adopted at the 1998 Interim Meeting)