Abolition of Fraternities

Serious questions about the viability of Greek life at Williams had been raised for several years before any significant actions were taken to address the problem. In one of the first steps toward non-affiliation, following the recommendation of the January 1951 Sterling Committee Progress Report, Baxter Hall was constructed from 1953 to1954. After the opening of this student union, freshman center, and dining hall, all fraternity rushing was to be delayed until sophomore year and all freshmen were compelled to eat together.

Questions of the educational and social costs of the Greek letter societies were highlighted in the "Statement of the Board of Trustees and Report of the Committee on Review of Fraternity Questions," released June 30, 1962 and more commonly known as the Angevine Committee Report. This report came to an overall conclusion concerning the ills of the Williams fraternity system:

Long continued delegation to the fraternities by the College of a large part of its responsibility with respect to the housing, eating, and social accommodations of the student body is a major cause of many existing conditions which are harmful to the educational purpose of the college; and early steps should be taken by the College to re-assume this responsibility and integrate these functions into the life of the College, where they properly belong.

Attempts to reform the fraternities had met with only limited success and had even exacerbated existing problems. These measures had included quotas, barring freshmen from fraternity affiliation, alternate organizations (such as the ill-fated Garfield Club), and the system of "Total Opportunity" which opened fraternity involvement to larger numbers of students.

In addition to their vast control over campus social activities, fraternities were responsible for feeding 94% of the upper classes and housing 44% of students. The College wanted greater control over these aspects of campus life and also hoped to do away with "hell week" and curb the growth of alcohol consumption. As expected, the College met with opposition from both students and alumni who believed that the fraternities continued to provide opportunities for significant connections to be made in closely-knit groups, to foster independent living, and to make useful contacts with alumni.

On October 30, 1962, four months after the publication of the Angevine Report, "A Report to the Williams College Family Containing Additional Information and Some Alternate Views on the Williams Fraternity System" was published with the official support of Psi Upsilon and Theta Delta Chi, and also the unofficial support of alumni from other fraternities. This particular pamphlet provided a direct critique of the Angevine Report, evaluating its "technique and methodology, historical and current interpretation, and the implications of the presently advanced proposals." The critique also took exception to the Angevine Report's depiction of the fraternities' attempts at reform. It asserted:

It must honestly be said that a number of the most liberal Williams graduates and many members of the faculty have felt that the fraternity system contained within itself the seeds for further improvement. Continuing evaluation along paths already laid out by the majority of fraternities that are financially solvent and intellectually and morally responsible seems preferable to a completely new and untried institutional system.

part II