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When Things Were Black and White Membership restrictions in men’s and women’s fraternities and sororities in the 20 th century.

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Presentation on theme: "When Things Were Black and White Membership restrictions in men’s and women’s fraternities and sororities in the 20 th century."— Presentation transcript:


2 When Things Were Black and White Membership restrictions in men’s and women’s fraternities and sororities in the 20 th century

3 NGLA February 23rd, 2013 Thanks for participating in NGLA!

4 Why I’m not here: To play “Gotcha!”

5 To name names or call out organizations or individuals… Or to “massage the data” That was then. This is now.

6 Why I am here: This is part of our history. To highlight the courage of many people—especially our undergraduates-- in changing the way that we do things.

7 Surprises for me as I began the research process… Not all organizations had a “clause”

8 Sample (1926): “Section 12. Any male belonging to the Caucasian race, duly enrolled and in good standing in an educational institution at which this Fraternity has a functioning chapter shall be eligible for membership in…”

9 Of those organizations with restrictions… The language varied. Some language addressed religion as well as race. When were those adopted? Difficult to determine without extensive research. Reasons for adoption varied.

10 Colleges and Universities… Did not play as large a role as thought upon the change process.

11 WW II veterans played a large role… In paving the way for equality.

12 “If we can live with them, fight by them, and sometimes hold them when they’re dying…” We should be able to call them “Brother”

13 Chronological Review Three of four major growth spurts for our organizations: 1830-1859 Leading up to the Civil War

14 Second growth period 1865-1890 Also, 14 th Amendment adopted Many NPC groups founded—some as women’s fraternities, some as fraternities, some as sororities

15 Third growth period From 1890-1920 Some organizations intentional about being non-sectarian such as Delta Sigma Phi. NPC (1902) and NIC (1909).

16 WW I Enormous loss of life—1 st time on foreign soil. Estimates: 400,000+ U.S. soldiers die. Isolationism in the 1920s: America does not join League of Nations “2 nd ” Ku Klux Klan 1915-1940

17 First survey by NIC on the topic 1924: 54 members surveyed, 23 acknowledge restrictions Some evidence that clauses surfaced in first decade of the 20 th century—Clyde Johnson.

18 Some groups: Used specific language. Others made vague references to the “Gentlemen’s Agreement”

19 WW II brings major changes Over 14 million men in uniform The G. I. Bill “Follow the money” About 4.4 million veterans will attend college via the G.I. Bill

20 Colleges and universities expand to meet demand. Federal funding is critical. Civil rights movement is underway although not yet on the radar.

21 NPHC? Alpha Phi Alpha leads the way by removing its restrictions in 1945. Other NPHC organizations follow.

22 1946 Colleges begin taking a stand on “The Clause”—for the most part those are in the northeast and small private schools. Growth in men’s chapters is exponential.

23 “Pesky veterans” Begin showing up at events. They are not intimidated by older alumni. They are not impressed with “traditions”.

24 1947 Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play major league baseball. United States Air Force created.

25 1948 By now NIC groups that have restrictive clauses/language are realizing that this issue ain’t going away. “Friendship by force” surfaces in publications—a less-than-subtle criticism of change.

26 President Truman Desegregates armed forces in 1948.

27 Query: Could African-Americans and Japanese Americans serve in combat roles in WW II? The Red Ball Express The Tuskegee Airmen 442 nd Regimental Combat Team

28 Yet, blacks and Nisei Japanese Returned from WW II and found segregation and prejudice.

29 1948: 1 st of several NIC votes The number of NIC groups with discriminatory clauses is declining. More difficult to ascertain with women’s groups.

30 1950 Korean conflict = More veterans, chapter “continuity” will be affected. The traditional look of fraternities as small groups is fading.

31 1951 National Panhellenic Conference admits seven women’s groups into full membership—Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Delta Phi Epsilon, Phi Sigma Sigma, Sigma Delta Tau, Sigma Sigma Sigma and Theta Phi Alpha.

32 Dartmouth College becomes… One of several flashpoints in the movement. 1952…

33 Perspective break: A number of men’s fraternity chapters voluntarily returned their charters rather than continuing to comply with restrictive language during this period.

34 NIC resolution (1952) for 1953 And don’t forget the “Comity Clause”. One interpretation—a reaction to chapters jumping ship and looking for another fraternity that will allow African-Americans.

35 1953: SUNY decision & litigation SUNY Board of Trustees votes to ban any social organization with national affiliation. A group of plaintiffs file suit to declare resolution unconstitutional and enjoin its enforcement. Three judge court…decision to prohibit national affiliation of chapters is the focal point. Webb v. State University of New York. 125 F Supp 910 Note: U.S. Supreme Court declined to review—no federal question involved. Outcome:

36 The panel gives the Heisman to the national organizations.

37 Perspective break Name the four universities that have produced a U.S. president and a Super Bowl- winning quarterback— answers later!

38 1954 According to Alfred McClung Lee, Sigma Chi and author of “Fraternities Without Brotherhood”, by 1954 only one NPC group had a restriction and that was religious, as in, “You must be of this faith”

39 Landmark USSC decision Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483 “Separate but equal” no longer acceptable

40 1955 By 1955, ten of 61 NIC member fraternities have membership restrictions. Only one NPC member has a restriction—religious.

41 University of Colorado… Gives fraternities six years from 1956 to eliminate restrictive language or be suspended…no indication that trustees foresaw this would become another legal battle.

42 “Pattern”* arguments States rights v. federal government Our nation founded upon self-selection Racial discrimination is bad but university- imposed integration is worse. “Forced friendship” We fought WWII to insure that we had the right to make our own decisions*

43 Pattern, continued If self-selection is affected chapters must choose based upon race—fraternity will be destroyed. “Agitators…Red Menace…communist instigators” are using this as a means of compromising us. “Birds of a feather…” Undergraduates are not capable of making these decisions

44 Pattern, continued “The trunk of the elephant through the window” (If we allow this dictated decision other rights will be compromised or changes made) The monster on the other side of the hill.

45 Arguments against elimination: Reasons most folks won’t challenge. Reasons that would tend to upset some folks. Reasons that are oblique or vague.

46 Fred Turner, Dean of Men at The University of Illinois and a past national president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon becomes a voice of moderation in the battle involving separate but equal, inclusion, tradition and alumni v. undergraduates.

47 “Okay! Okay! We’ll change but…” Camouflage

48 “We’ll remove the language…” 1) It’s in the ritual. 2) “We” have to approve. 3) As long as he’s acceptable in every other chapter/undergraduate member and to all alumni.

49 Civil Rights Act of 1964 Federal funding. “Show me the money!”

50 By 1965… Five fraternities remain that have some form of restrictive clause according to an article in Time magazine.

51 Lawsuit @ UCLA

52 UCLA requires all chapters To sign an anti-discrimination agreement by September 1 st, 1964. Two national organizations file suit, which fails as does a request for an injunction.

53 Then, University of Colorado… Alerted to a situation at Stanford…chapter of that national organization at CU…in April of 1964 the Stanford chapter was suspended by its national organization after inviting an African-American undergraduate to join.

54 Colorado then places their chapter on probation Fraternity files suit against the Board of Regents. 285 F Supp 515 Three judge federal panel as in the SUNY case.

55 Court acknowledges Freedom of Association but… There are limits on associational rights—not absolute. Board of Regents had a legitimate outcome in mind with anti-discriminatory decision. State has interest in eliminating racial discrimination. Fraternity not required to admit individuals for membership but to eliminate a provision “which compels discrimination on the basis of race, color or creed”

56 Finally: No “Piercing the corporate veil”

57 In other words, this is state action… Courts appear reluctant to second- guess university administration. Freedom of association is not absolute…measured in relationship to facts.

58 Response from universities during the 1950s/1960s 1) No real issue unless organizations condemn or criticize races/individuals 2) “Grandfather”: Won’t allow new groups that discriminate 3) Change within time frame.

59 Much research remains to be done. Stewart Howe (Kappa Sigma) If he was alive today, he would be…an eBay guy for sure.

60 Thanks!

61 Questions? Dave Westol

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