Beta apologizes for June incident
By Jeffrey Beyer, News Editor
Published on Wednesday, August 14, 1996
Beta Theta Pi fraternity saw its request to hold Fall-term rush denied at a judicial hearing last Tuesday, and the organization yesterday released a letter to the community apologizing for its involvement in an incident on June 26.
The letter states that on the night of June 26, one Beta brother tackled a Sigma Nu fraternity brother on the lawn of The Tabard coed fraternity. Soon thereafter a Tabard member stepped outside in response to the tumult, and several Betas shouted at him vulgar, racist and homophobic epithets and threats.
Beta is now suspended with full social restrictions through at least Nov. 26. The organization is prohibited from having alcohol in its house at any time and is barred from holding rush Fall term.
The penalties were originally imposed on Beta by Dean of Residential Life Mary Turco and the CFS judicial committee after a July 18 hearing -- and were the result of the fraternity being found guilty of six violations of College and Beta codes of conduct stemming from the June 26 incident.
In accordance with the College's Adjudication Process for Coed, Fraternity and Sorority Organizations, Beta successfully petitioned for a rehearing so it could appeal for clemency and formally ask for a reinstatement of Fall-term rush.
At that Aug. 6 rehearing, Turco and the judiciary committee considered Beta's appeal, but decided to deny the fraternity's request for clemency. Beta will not have the opportunity to petition for a lifting of the social restrictions again until Nov. 26.
The penalty imposed on Beta, "suspended recognition," is not as serious as "derecognition" -- which means not only full social suspension, but also the denial of several privileges, like College billing, cleaning and trash service and access to College facilities for programming.
In some cases, according to Dean of the College Lee Pelton, derecognition can also mean members are barred from living in the organization's physical plant.
Until now, the nature of the June 26 incidents were not public knowledge.
But in a "statement to the Dartmouth community," printed as an advertisment in today's issue of The Dartmouth, Beta Summer President Keith Lockwood '98, writing on behalf of the entire house, gives a detailed description of what transpired and apologizes for the organization's involvement in the incident.
The letter describes how several members of Beta chased two members of Sigma Nu -- who had wandered into the Beta basement at about 11:15 p.m. on June 26 -- outside and pursued them across Webster Avenue and onto the lawn of The Tabard.
"On the front lawn of The Tabard one Beta pursuer tackled one of the Sigma Nus. The Beta pinned the Sigma Nu's arms to the ground and shouted at him asking why he had been in Beta ... No punches were thrown and no further physical contact took place," the letter states.
The letter also describes how several Betas verbally attacked a member of The Tabard who had responded to the commotion. The Tabard member, who had exited the house and had attempted to dismiss the 10 or 15 people in the crowd from his lawn, was directed to return inside the house with "profanity, racial epithets and vulgarity," according to the letter.
Lockwood apologizes for Beta's involvement in the incident and writes that Beta will "strive to ensure that an unfortunate incident such as this never happens again."
The member of The Tabard who was verbally assaulted -- who requested that his name not be used in this story -- called the letter "terse and to the point and said what needed to be said" and he deemed the public apology to be "adequate."
He also said that the personal letter he received from Lockwood on behalf of Beta was a "courteous apology."
Lockwood would not comment on the nature of the verbal abuse other than to say that neither he nor Beta had any further comments about the entire incident other than what was contained in the public statement.
But someone who witnessed the incident said that on June 26, he heard the person who was verbally assaulted called a [expletive] "chink faggot" more than once.
Jack Burnett '71, president of Beta's board of trustees, declined to comment on either the letter or the denial of Beta's petition for clemency.
"I would defer comment until I am able to see the written ruling and the letter," Burnett said from his home in Peterboro in a telephone interview with The Dartmouth last night.
Thus far, no individuals from Beta have come forward publicly to admit their personal involvement in the June 26 incident.
Beta as an entire house has been held responsible for and punished for the actions of some of its members under the College's group accountability statement -- which says an organization may bear "corporate" or group accountability for the actions of individual members, under certain circumstances.
Pelton said even if a few members came forward, it would not have prevented the house from being adjudicated by Turco and the judiciary committee.
If the College does receive information that leads it to sufficiently believe that certain individuals were involved in the June 26 incident, Pelton said these individuals would "absolutely" be subject to a hearing before the Committee on Standards.
COS hearings adjudicate cases of individuals who violate the College's Code of Conduct, and Pelton said participants in the June 26 incident certainly appeared to violate the code.
Pelton said Beta's public letter of apology was a good start, but added Beta is an organization that will still "require some leadership on the part of its undergraduate members and its alumni in order to improve itself."
Pelton said Beta is a "house on the verge of derecognition."
"If there is another major episode at Beta, it seems to me that derecognition is probably the logical next step," he said.
The June 26 incident marks the third major controversy in just over three years -- and the fourth since 1991 -- of which Beta has been in the middle.
Last summer, Beta was condemned, though not sanctioned, by the College, following the discovery of a racist and sexist poem that was allegedly read aloud at one of the fraternity's weekly meetings.
In response to the poem, Pelton wrote a letter to Beta, which was later released to the community, that rebuked Beta and called for the house to react in a positive way to the incident.
Then-Beta President Jason Fanuele '96 said Beta would host programming during last Winter term addressing problems of gender and race relations on campus -- but Pelton said yesterday that to his knowledge, nothing had ever materialized from those promises.
"It saddens me that there's not enough leadership [at Beta] that they were unable or unwilling to follow through on that," Pelton said. "I considered that to be a covenant that they made not just with my office, but with the Dartmouth community -- and I think the failure to live up to that covenant ... is really unfortunate."
In 1994, Beta was derecognized for a year after a hearing found them guilty of several violations stemming from a hazing incident. Beta's board of trustees also disciplined the house, and the fraternity's national organization suspended its charter.
Also as a result of that incident, Beta brothers Nat Cook '94 and David Robb '94 were suspended from the College by the COS for their involvement.
In 1991, the College derecognized Beta for three terms after 10 Beta brothers kidnapped and tormented a Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity brother.