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MIT SETS POLICIES IN WAKE OF DEATH TIED TO DRINKING

Six months after Scott Krueger's drinking-related death, no criminal charges have been lodged. But a special Suffolk County, Mass., grand jury that began hearing the case in October is continuing to explore possible charges, including manslaughter.

Things have moved more quickly -- although not to everyone's satisfaction -- on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, where new policies have been instituted on underage drinking and freshman housing selections.

The biggest change may have come inside the fraternity house where Scott Krueger was living last September when he drank himself into a fatal coma.

Phi Gamma Delta fraternity in Boston, less than two miles from the MIT campus in Cambridge, has been decertified and stripped of its dormitory license. Only three students still live there, on a custodial basis.

At Orchard Park High School, Krueger remains a symbol of the best and brightest, an 18-year-old graduate who still inspires students, a success story still mourned by the high school community.

But outside Western New York, Scott Krueger has become a symbol of two college plagues: binge drinking and a housing crunch that forces some freshmen to live in unsupervised off-campus housing.

Krueger, 18, a freshman pledge at Phi Gamma Delta, lapsed into an alcohol-induced coma Sept. 26 during a "Big Brothers" celebration in the fraternity house. He was rushed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with a blood-alcohol level of .41 percent. He died three days later after being taken off life support.

Medical experts have said a blood-alcohol level of .41 percent is the equivalent of drinking at least 16 shots of liquor.

"Someone had to practically force the alcohol down his throat for him to have drunk that much alcohol," Scott's mother, Darlene, told the Boston Globe.

A special grand jury convened in October continues to investigate the case and has been meeting an average of about once a week, James Borghesani, press secretary of the Suffolk County district attorney's office, confirmed.

Sources have said the grand jury is considering possible manslaughter charges against some of the fraternity brothers in the house that night and/or whoever supplied the liquor to the underage Krueger. Mrs. Krueger testified before the grand jury in December.

Why has the probe taken so long?

"The wheels of justice turn ever so slowly sometimes," said Sgt. Detective Margot Hill, a spokeswoman for the Boston police. "I think it's because of the reticence of some of the individuals to come forward."

As one law-enforcement source said of the probe's possible targets: "Everybody lawyered up."

The Krueger family refused any comment, and it's not known whether they have any plans to sue the university or its administrators.

The death has put MIT officials on the hot seat, leaving them accused of ignoring previous warnings that could have averted last September's tragedy:

In 1992, two former MIT students warned school officials in a 35-page paper posted on the Internet about the potential for tragedy in fraternity houses. Freshmen are rushed into the MIT housing system "via one big snow job" during freshman orientation, with students and parents given a false sense of security, the two students warned.

Seven years ago, a committee of MIT faculty, students and administrators warned that alcohol was being used irresponsibly and that the school had no comprehensive alcohol-education program.

In November, during a spirited two-hour hearing, the Boston Licensing Board chastised MIT administrators for failing to take action against Phi Gamma Delta earlier, following previous problems with underage drinking at the fraternity.

After the Krueger tragedy, MIT President Charles M. Vest admitted that MIT and other colleges had done an "inadequate" job in these areas and had to learn how to do better.

Since Krueger's death, MIT has taken steps to prevent such a tragedy in the future:

Last month, it announced a new system of sanctions for underage student drinkers. They range from meeting with a dean, a warning and a two-hour alcohol education session to fines of up to $1,500 and possible expulsion.

College officials have announced that a new dormitory housing 300 to 350 students will be built to help accommodate more freshmen on campus. Currently, about one-third of MIT freshmen live off campus, with less supervision and oversight from the university.

A campus committee has been formed to develop a policy to help curb binge drinking.

MIT has taken steps to improve its orientation week, a seven-day ordeal before the fall semester, a week that some students consider the most pressure-packed part of the MIT experience. Freshmen this fall will get more housing information earlier and have more time to decide where they'll live once they get on campus.

Robert J. Sales, assistant director of the MIT News Office, called the Krueger tragedy a wake-up call for the university.

Some campus critics, though, think there's too much emphasis on new policies and sanctions and not enough on educating the students.

"The current focus on underage drinking, rather than irresponsible drinking, suggests that the administration is more concerned about liability than safety," freshman Naveen Sunkavally wrote in the Tech student newspaper.

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