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MIT to pay $6 million to Krueger family

Daily Editorial Board, Daily Editorial Board

Published: Friday, September 1, 2000

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 16:08

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) agreed to a $6 million settlement last week with the parents of Scott Krueger, the freshman MIT student who died of alcohol poisoning while pledging a fraternity in 1997. Krueger’s death began a national dialog on the dangers of binge drinking, and has caused many colleges and universities to revisit their campus alcohol policies and institute new awareness programs.

While most of the $6 million goes to the Krueger family, $1.25 million will be set aside to start a scholarship in Scott’s memory. The settlement resolves MIT of all legal liability to Krueger’s parents, who never filed a formal lawsuit against the university.

The tragedy spurred MIT to revise its student-housing policies, and to tighten its grip on fraternities and sororities, as President Charles Vest explained in a letter to Krueger’s parents that was made public after the announcement.

“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,” he wrote.

Until recently, MIT did not guarantee housing for freshmen, compelling many students, like Krueger, to take advantage of the convenient housing available in fraternities and sororities. Starting in the fall of 2002, however, all first-year students at MIT will be required to live in University housing. Additionally, fraternities and sororities will be staffed by residential advisors, and will no longer be allowed to hold recruiting events during freshmen orientation.

Krueger’s death has left college students and administrators from coast to coast wondering whether such an incident could happen on their own campus.

“I think binge drinking is as much of a problem on the Tufts campus as it is at any college,” said Director of Health Services Michelle Bowdler. “We don’t tend to be named as one of the schools that has the highest rate for binge drinking, but it’s certainly an issue here, and it’s an issue we try to address seriously and responsibly.”

Both Bowdler and Dean of Students Bruce Reitman, however, feel that the drinking environment at Tufts is much safer than at MIT.

“I think the issue for MIT was not just that the student died from alcohol poisoning, but what their policies were around housing…. A lot of freshmen were living off campus in fraternities or apartments before they were adjusted to college. Tufts has always felt strongly about providing housing to freshmen,” Bowdler said.

Exacerbating Krueger’s condition was the fact that he did not receive immediate medical attention as he slipped into an alcohol-induced coma. MIT, unlike Tufts, does not have a student paramedic organization. Reitman touted Tufts Emergency Medical Services (TEMS) as one of the University’s most significant resources for handling alcohol-related emergencies.

Though no changes have been made to Tufts’ policies surrounding the Greek system as a result of the tragedy, Reitman instituted a new alcohol policy this semester that is designed to encourage students to call TEMS when their friends need help.

“I never want to create a situation where someone is risking a friend’s life to avoid punishment; that’s ridiculous. That’s why I’ve eliminated fines,” he said. The policy eliminates the $50 fine for first time violations, but comes down much harder on repeat offenders.

After Krueger’s death, Tufts joined 23 other Boston-area schools in forming the Coalition of Boston Area Schools Underage Drinking Task Force to address the problems of alcohol abuse and underage drinking. Despite its membership in the coalition, Tufts has made few changes to its alcohol education programs, citing its already-ambitious prevention measures as sufficient.

“We already felt like we were responding seriously to try to educate students and try to keep something like that from happening here,” Bowdler said. These measures include providing substance-free housing, promoting campus activities that do not involve alcohol, and publishing a newsletter for students.

According to Inter-Greek Council President Alison Fleisher, Tufts’ fraternities and sororities also take significant steps to protect the health of their members. All prospective pledges on campus are required to attend three educational meetings organized by Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol.

“The abuse of alcohol is a serious issue on college campuses at large and the Greek system has been taking measures to ensure the safety of its members and provide a healthier environment for them,” Fleisher said.

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