- MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME COURT RULES IN THE BRANDEIS CASE
- THE FINAL SETTLEMENT: SIX MILLION DOLLARS
- IRS ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE CONCERNING POPULAR FOUNDATION PROGRAMS
- FRATERNITY NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR VOLUNTARY UNDERAGE DRINKING
Newsletter > November 2000 > "THE FINAL SETTLEMENT: SIX MILLION DOLLARS"
THE FINAL SETTLEMENT: SIX MILLION DOLLARS
Timothy M. Burke, Manley & Burke
On September 27, 1997, Scott Krueger, an 18 year old freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, died from an alcohol related incident in the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity house where he was living. Subsequent to his death, the fraternity chapter was criminally charged with manslaughter. The criminal case was ultimately not pursued when the chapter disbanded and there was no defendant left to take to trial in the criminal case.
Now, three years after his death, MIT has reached a settlement with the parents of Scott Krueger. According to a statement released by Charles M. Vest, the President of MIT, on September 13, 2000, “MIT will contribute $1.25 million for scholarships to be established by Mr. and Mrs. Krueger and, in addition, will pay them $4.75 million to be used as they determine.” MIT apparently had exposure to liability because with an undersupply of housing, even freshmen lived in fraternity houses, and as the County District Attorney said at the time of the chapter’s indictment, MIT “moved too slowly in addressing a trouble-plagued fraternity.”
President Vest also released the following letter to Mr. and Mrs. Krueger. Because of its important message, the body of that letter is reprinted in its entirety.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Krueger:
I am grateful that Rosalind Williams and I were able to talk with you and come to understand even more deeply your family’s unimaginable anguish over Scott’s death. Despite your trust in MIT, things went terribly awry. At a very personal level, I feel that we at MIT failed you and Scott. For this you have our profound apology.
The death of Scott as a freshman living in an MIT fraternity shows that our approach to alcohol education and policy, and our freshman housing options were inadequate. I am deeply sorry for this.
Scott’s death galvanized us to action. It impelled us to greatly intensify our consideration and accelerate our actions with regard to alcohol, our housing system, and other issues of student life and learning. Starting in 2002, when additional housing has been constructed, all of our freshmen will be required to live for their first year in residence halls. Our approach to alcohol education as well as to policies regarding
its use — and their enforcement — have been greatly strengthened. We are building a stronger sense of community and community responsibility. All this takes longer than I would like, and will never be perfect, but MIT is, and will be, a better institution for having undertaken substantial change.
I am a parent, and have devoted my entire career to teaching and academic administration because I believe in young people and in the importance of their education. The death of your son has profoundly affected me. My MIT colleagues and I will continue to apply the lessons of this tragedy and make MIT the better for it.
It is with great respect and personal gratitude that I thank you for the opportunity to meet in person. With your help, I now have a greater understanding of your terrible loss and of MIT’s responsibilities to its students and their families.
I understand that you wish to make this letter public. You certainly have my permission to do so.
Charles M. Vest
In addition to the settlement, MIT emphasized, in a separate statement, other steps that the university and its fraternities had taken since Scott Krueger’s death. These included the banishment of Phi Gamma Delta from MIT in perpetuity; a change in MIT’s housing policy which, beginning in 2002 will require all first year students to live on campus; five fraternities voluntarily declared themselves to be alcohol free; educational, medical and counseling programs were increased; and the regulation of events with alcohol was increased as was method of enforcement and sanctions for violating university alcohol policy.
Fraternity and sorority officials, including chapter officers, must recognize that tragedies like that of Scott Kruger’s at MIT, are totally avoidable through the exercise of common sense and compliance with the law. From among those that fail in these obligations may well come the next writer who must pour out his or her heart to grieving parents.