An MIT fraternity in Kenmore Square found itself hauled before the Boston Licensing Board today to face police citations for allowing underage drinking and vaping at a party in which way more people were stuffed into the building than allowed by its Boston-issued licenses.
Joined by MIT officials and a member of his frat's alumni association, a Phi Sigma Kappa student leader listened as BPD Det. Daniel MacDonald described the conditions outside and inside the 487 Commonwealth Ave. frat house the night of Oct. 13: Roughly 150 people inside or waiting to get in the building, which is licensed for 26 residents but which MIT said could hold up to 101 people for a party, an underage student from another college walking around with a beer in her hand and one guy taking drags on an e-cigarette inside.
MacDonald said the 19-year-old found with the beer said she was never asked for ID - somebody at the frat bar just handed her the drink.
On its Web site, the fraternity describes itself as a home for driven MIT students with a need to unwind at night, when its regular schedule of parties make it "a pillar of the social scene for college students in Boston:"
Phi Sigs like to live it up. Throughout the semester we host house parties with students from all over Boston, mixers with sororities, and classy formals to wrap up each semester.
The frat official acknowledged the violations MacDonald cited and blamed "a certain level of complacency" because the fraternity had gone several years without any problems - most notably that time a freshman pledge plunged four stories inside the frat house in 2013 after he jumped on a plexiglass skylight on the frat's illegal roof deck to attract the attention of some girls.
He said he and other frat officials tried to disperse the people waiting outside, but that as soon as they shooed away some people, even more people showed up. And then MacDonald and another detective showed up.
He said that going forward, the frat will do better at keeping the pre-21 set from getting drinks, barring people from vaping inside and will engage in other "best practices" to keep parties safe and legal. He added this will include immediately calling MIT Police for help with dispersing any gathering groups of would-be party goers outside.
But those will have to wait until next fall. An MIT official told the licensing board that because of the incident, the fraternity has been put on probation and cannot host any more parties this academic year.
The board could consider whether to apply any sanctions to the fraternity at a meeting on Thursday.
The board also pledged to take a look at the issue of just how many people can safely gather at one time in the various MIT frats in Boston after both MacDonald and MIT officials acknowledged confusion over the limits.
Following incidents such as the freshman-pledge plunge, both MIT and various city officials attempted to figure out safe numbers - and to post them inside each individual fraternity house, but MIT officials said no final conclusion was reached and then William Evans retired as police commissioner.