Beta seizes house from AZD
By Kate Farley, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, January 11, 2008
Alpha Xi Delta sorority must vacate its on-campus physical plant by June 30, its members were told Wednesday evening in a jarring meeting that left many of the women in tears, according to Dean of Residential Life Marty Redman. The Dartmouth alumni of Beta Theta Pi fraternity -- which inhabited the Webster Ave. mansion before it was derecognized in December 1996 following a string of frequent disciplinary infractions and heavy sanctions -- have taken back their house as they begin the process of getting their fraternity re-recognized by the College.
A group of Beta alumni reached an agreement with ORL, which stipulated that the new installment of Beta at Dartmouth must be connected to a national organization in order to be given College recognition, in December. Currently, the Trustees of the Alpha Omega Chapter of Beta Theta Pi at Dartmouth, as the group is formally known, is not affiliated with the national organization of Beta Theta Pi, which retracted the local chapter's charter following its derecognition.
AZD, which has leased the property from the alumni group for the past 10 years, will be relocated to a house on South Park Street. Alpha Phi sorority, which currently has no physical plant of its own, will be given the house next door to AZD. The College expects to spend nearly five million dollars on property and renovation for the two sororities, whose houses should be finished by the fall or January at the latest. Even with extensive renovation, though, Redman said that each building will only be able to house seven women "at best."
Beta was derecognized following a series of disciplinary breaches throughout the early 1990s.
In 1991, 10 Beta members were found guilty of abducting and tormenting a Chi Gamma Epsilon member, whom they bound to a chair and doused with water.
In 1996, a Beta member tackled a Sigma Nu fraternity member on the lawn of The Tabard Coed fraternity. When a member of The Tabard stepped outside in response to the commotion, several Beta members shouted racist and homophobic epithets at him, The Dartmouth reported later that year.
Beta was permanently derecognized when campus officials discovered a keg in the house after a fire alarm went off while the house was on a prolonged probation for previous offenses.
Immediately following the organization's separation from Dartmouth, the alumni corporation began negotiations with the College regarding the fraternity's potential return to campus. The current agreement stems from more urgent talks that began after Dartmouth lifted its moratorium on the creation of single-sex organizations in June 2005.
Beta does not meet the qualifications for re-recognition as stated by the Coed, Fraternity and Sorority Administration:
"The following recognition policies and process apply to all new or returning organizations...Returning organizations are those who 1) once existed at Dartmouth and closed for non-disciplinary reasons; or 2) once existed at Dartmouth but as the result of disciplinary action were closed for a period of time with the opportunity to return at a future date clearly articulated as part of the disciplinary action."
Redman acknowledged that Beta did not fall under either of the categories, but explained that the safety risks posed by a house that returns to campus without College recognition were a main factor in the decision to re-recognize both Beta and Zeta Psi fraternity, which was derecognized in 2001.
At this time, Beta alumni have not begun to recruit undergraduate students for membership.
"When we began our work with the College, we had means that I would consider side or back door to populate the organization, but we didn't want to do that," said Scott Sipple, co-chairman of the Beta Board of Trustees. "We wanted to work through the front door with the College to bring the organization back."
Beta alumni will hold information sessions to boost interest in the organization among the student body throughout the Winter and Spring terms, Sipple said. During Fall term 2008, the alumni will begin conducting recruitment events. Sipple, who acknowledged that towards the end of Beta's 106-year run on campus it was dominated by members of the football team, said the alumni would not be focus on recruiting members from any specific group on campus, athletic or otherwise.
"We're looking to recruit quality individuals," he said.
Sipple said that while the alumni group's ultimate goal is to rejoin with Beta national, they are prepared to work with future members to determine if affiliation with a different national organization would better suit the needs of the group. It is College policy to only allow the addition of national fraternities and sororities to campus.
AZD, in the meantime, has found itself suddenly without a house for the upcoming summer and possibly Fall 2008, which could pose problems for the sorority's rush process.
"Although our organization has always known that Beta intended to return to campus at some point in time, the news that their return is imminent was unexpected," said AZD in an official statement to The Dartmouth.
The executive council of AZD was officially notified that Dartmouth Beta would be returning in Fall 2008 in a meeting with ORL and Dartmouth Beta representatives Wednesday evening, according to Julia Schwartz, AZD's public relations vice president. Redman had been in informal talks with various AZD officers since March 2007.
Today, many students associate Beta with unconfirmed hearsay about the so-called "Beta-vision," a system purportedly installed in the house to allow members to watch other members have sex with unsuspecting partners.
Beta-vision lore may be persistent on campus, but the house was not disciplined for any such system, and both Redman and Sippel said they had never heard of it.