Four Large American Universities Seek to Rid Fraternities of Racial and Religious Bias
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Four Large American Universities Seek to Rid Fraternities of Racial and Religious Bias

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Restrictive membership clauses in fraternity and sorerity constitutions have become a major issue recently on four major university campuses, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Fraternity and sorority constitutions which limit membership to certain racial and religious groups have been attacked intermittently for many years, but never have they stirred up so much concern as at present, the report points out.

Michigan, Columbia, Wisconsin, and Northwestern have made recent attempts to meet this problem. None had immediate success, but Michigan and Columbia took steps toward setting a definite time limit for reaching a solution, the article explains, Their student legislatures gave campus fraternities just six years in which to rid themselves of bias clauses. A fraternity failing to concur with this ultimatum would be barred from the campus. The “time limit” plan is not yet campus law at either Michigan or Columbia. Other legislative committees must give their approval.

There is not assurance that this approval will be forthcoming, for the plan already has encountered strong opposition, the article says. At Michigan, the Interfraternity Council, semi-official spokesman for fraternities, labeled the plan “completely detrimental to the program set up by IFC.” As a counterplan, the I.F.C. voted to refuse recognition to any fraternity not making an effort to rid its constitution of discrimination. But the controversial question of time limit was ignored, the Monitor reports.

The proposed six-year breathing period was designed to silence those fraternities which claimed no constitutional changes could be effected without going through the proper national charmels. The Michigan Daily declared: “The chief targets of time-limit pressure are the clause-favoring blocs at national conventions. Local chapters should welcome the pressure as a means of subduing these bloce. Alone, University of Michigan chapters would fail. But they will not be alone. More schools will follow. Within six years, the demand for removal of the clauses should be so united that few national fraternities would be able to hold out.”


At the University of Wisconsin, a student-faculty proposal was turned down by the school’s board of regents, the Monitor reports. The plan was incorporated in a human rights report, with recommendations that: 1. No new organizations with bias clauses be approved; 2. Continued approval of existing organizations be conditioned on a reasonable effort to get rid of these restrictions; 3. These organizations be required to report annually to a university committee on human relations; 4. This committee shall review the situation in 1953, if any fraternity or sorority still has a restrictive clause, and recoumend future policy.

Having turned down the report, the regents substituted for it a resolution guaranteeing “constitutional rights” to students of all races and creeds. Their action was challenged by several student groups and the college daily newspaper, according to the article. Wisconsin’s student board, one of the dissenting groups, met in special session and established an emergency committee on human rights. And a front-page editorial in the Daily Cardinal termed the regents’ action “inadequate, narrow, and antiquated.”

A somewhat milder plan at Northwestern University met with as little success. Northwestern’s Interfraternity Council seemed to reluctant for reform as Michigan’s I.F.C. It beat down a measure asking the administration not to admit any new fraternity which has discriminatory clauses. The vote was 23 to 2 against the measure. The Daily Northwestern, which played a key part in the anti-bias clause movement, commented in an editorial: “We’re disappointed in the action of the I.F.C. But we still think the principle is sound. The only reform of discriminatory practices that will be effective is that approved by fraternities themselves. An anti-discrimination plan imposed on fraternities will meet with resistance, not success.”

Others on campus were not so lenient with the I.F.C. Residents of Asbury Hall, Northwestern’s international male dormitory, accused the council of preaching “doctrines of discrimination.” The Asbury resolution declared: “If reforms are not within the power of the students, we feel that the administration should institute them by barring from student privileges those organizations that feel they must persist in upholding the doctrines of discrimination.”

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