Abolition of Fraternities

[part II]
Students also became involved in the controversy, arguing for and against the new plan. In addition to debates and heated exchanges in the Williams Record , there were angrier confrontations, such as a rowdy late-night demonstration in front of the President's House. This particular incident was reproved by fellow students who felt that the protest did more harm than good, undermining the very system that the mob was attempting to preserve. An article in the following day's Williams Record criticized:

There are many of us who believe in the fraternity system and would like it to remain here at Williams. There are probably as many who would even encourage a large student protest, if conducted properly. However, most would be offended by the despicable way this group handled itself. Instead of helping the fraternity situation these people only illustrate the barbaric state into which fraternities may someday collapse. Rather than jeering and making fools of themselves, the ringleaders might put their "leadership" to use in an organized manner. If such distasteful actions continue, maybe the system of fraternity living should be abolished. (September 21, 1962)

When it became clear that the College's commitment to the abolishment of fraternities was real and implacable, the Record advised cooperation:

The time has passed for bickering; the time has come for constructive planning of the new social system. The planning committees have been wisely selected for a wide range of undergraduate opinion and a notable lack of campus politico types. We hope that every interested student will contribute his opinions, for only in this way, can we, as undergraduates, preserve and foster the values which we feel are important. The task ahead is a highly challenging and exciting one, and one that will mean much for the future. We hope that all members of the Williams family will contribute to its solution. (October 10, 1962)

Several years of negotiations followed, with thirteen of the fraternities transferring their houses to Williams through sale, lease, or donation. Only Phi Gamma Delta refused to cooperate in any way, choosing instead to sell its house to the Town, rather than have it fall under the control of the College. From the house essays in the College yearbook (the Gulielmensian ), we can see that some of the houses were making a real effort to adjust to the new Williams social system, while some of the fraternities still refused to cooperate. The Garfield House essay begins:

With the advent of the first year of the "New Williams," Delta Upsilons stepped into its new role without missing a stride. Under the awesome auspices of James A. Garfield House, it has succeeded in a way almost unique to any other house in integrating the old fraternity ideals with the new college realities. This year has witnessed the continuation and development of a strong and spirited sense of brotherhood, without the old "Greek" overtones. Each D.U.-Garf takes tremendous pride in being a member of the "Zoo," a house which has shown its excellence in all phases of College life at Williams. ( Gulielmensian 1965)

A Psi Upsilon essay has a more pointed approach to detailing the many accomplishments of its house members:

Psi Upsilon for the second straight year pursued a round of activities which earned it the title "least involved" from the ever-surrealist Record . Among the Knights of obscurity were swimming co-captains Don Rodger and Jim Rider . . . Less successful was the Psi U. plot to destroy the Williams social system by boring from within -- a scheme uncovered by the relentless newshounds from the Record . At any rate, the Brotherhood hopes to continue its tradition of navel-contemplation in quiet seclusion from the rush and bother of important campus activities. ( Gulielmensian 1966)

The changes wrought by the abolishment of fraternities encouraged the formation of the system we know today, including the conversion of fraternity houses into general dormitories or academic facilities and the construction of new buildings, like those of the Greylock Quadrangle and Mission Park.

By Jaime Margalotti (Williams Class of 2000)

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