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A Partisan History of pika as I Understand It (Sam Coradetti, 2004)

pika was formed in 1969 and formally founded in 1970 as the Eta Delta chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha (a.k.a. PiKA). To house the new chapter, the PiKA national organization financed the purchase of a three story boarding house in Cambridgeport.

pika was founded as an all male fraternity, but the founding brothers had interest in going coed from the beginning. They chose PiKA in part because its charter contained progressive language on the equality and inclusion of women. They began petitioning MIT to rush women in 1974. The first petition was denied on the grounds that the fraternity did not seem united in the endeavor. They put together a stronger case the next year and in the spring of 1975 their petition was approved.

Over the next few years the Eta Delta chapter slowly learned there was a big difference between theory and practice at PiKA. The women were not allowed to become equal members of the fraternity and were treated in a condescending way by the national. They were referred to as "little sisters" instead of brothers and excluded from some of the brotherhood rituals, yet still had to pay equal membership fees to the national.

The final straw came in 1980 when a representative from the National came to inspect the house. His report was full of condescending and irrational suggestions that the house would be better off if women didn't live there. The house members voted to leave the fraternity at the following retreat. They were afraid that the fraternity might respond by taking away the house (the national organization still held the mortgage), so they sent a small group to discuss their options with the MIT administration. After just one meeting, MIT agreed to purchase the outstanding mortgage and refinance it at a lower interest rate.

Once they were confident of control of their house, the residents sent the national a letter asking to resign from the fraternity citing irreconcilable differences. The fraternity agreed, provided that each individual house member resigned as well. This might have been a stalling tactic, or a last ditch effort to divide the house and leverage a minority to prevent the separation, but the house was united and all the residents eventually resigned. By 1982 all ties with Pi Kappa Alpha had been severed. At this time pika changed its official status at MIT from Fraternity to Independent Living Group (ILG) and took on its all lowercase spelling to distinguish it from PiKA.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s pika thrived as an independent student cooperative. During this period it maintained a female to male ratio of around 1:1, as opposed to the overall MIT undergraduate population which was 1:4 in 1980 and approaching 1:1 for incoming classes in 2000.

In 1997 Scott Kruger, a freshman at Phi Gamma Delta died after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. His parents sued, blaming MIT for leaving freshmen unsupervised in fraternities and ILGs. The trend in similar liability cases nation wide was not promising, and MIT chose to settle out of court. The settlement including a provision to house all freshmen on campus. An additional undergraduate dorm was completed by 2001 and all freshmen were required to live on campus from that point on.

Faced with a 3 year turnover period and the added challenge of rushing freshmen after they had settled into dormitories, pika began rushing graduate students. The change was a natural adaptation in line with pika's history of inclusion, diversity and equality. Although recruitment is still focused on freshmen and sophomores, graduate students will likely make up a significant portion of the house for the foreseeable future.

More on the resignation from Pi Kappa Alpha

Founding documents care of Peter Welling

Tech articles

More links of historical significance