The College of Wooster GLO Situation, February 13, 1913

On February 13, 1913, the fraternity and sorority system composed of national organizations at the College of Wooster ceased to exist. Some of the chapters were more than 30 years old. The list below is from the statement issued by the University of Wooster Alumni Inter Fraternity Committee. It is entitled: Giving Sequence of Recent Fraternity Events in Said University Prior to and in Connection with Resolution of Board of Trustees Prohibiting Further Initiations Passed February 13 1913. 

1866, University of Wooster, Wooster Ohio chartered

Sept. 7, 1870, University opened and formally dedicated

June 1871, Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, Ohio Gamma Chapter installed

May 12, 1872, Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, Alpha Lambda Chapter installed

Dec. 1872, Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, Ohio Delta Chapter installed

March 2, 1873, Sigma Chi Fraternity, Beta Chapter installed

June 1875, Kappa Alpha Theta Women’s Fraternity, Epsilon Chapter installed

May 15, 1876, Kappa Kappa Gamma Women’s Fraternity, Beta Gamma Chapter installed

1880, Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, Psi Chapter installed

May 26, 1882, Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity, Rho Deuteron installed

Dec. 20, 1888, Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, Beta Mu Chapter installed

July 1907, Beta Theta Pi Fraternity Chapter purchases ground for its Chapter House in proximity to the University campus

Sept. 20, 1910, Pi Beta Phi Women’s Fraternity, Ohio Gamma Chapter installed

March 23 1912, Delta Delta Delta Women’s Fraternity, Delta Delta Chapter installed

June 1, 1912, Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, Ohio Delta Chapter installed

June 18, 1912, Phi Gamma Delta and Sigma Chi Fraternity Chapters purchase ground for Chapter Houses on site adjoining the campus upon Trustees Approval thereof

Feb 13, 1913, Trustees Resolution prohibiting further fraternity initiations

Postcard_of_Birds_Eye_View_of_The_College_of_Wooster_Campus_addressed_to_Agnes_E_Scott_recto

The Ohio Gamma chapter of Pi Beta Phi was chartered in 1910. At that time, the method of affiliating with the national organization included several inspection visits to a petitioning group. Once given the go-ahead to petition the convention body, the group was expected to prepare an elaborate petition, a book actually, which was sent to all other Pi Phi chapters and national officers. The book included supporting letters from administrators, faculty, local alumnae, and prominent townspeople. Although I have never seen the Ohio Gamma petition, I would bet that it includes a letter from the college president and Dean of Women endorsing the group. This report is from the April 1913 Arrow of Pi Beta Phi:

Early last fall President Holden mapped out a course for additional growth in the university involving an expenditure of one million dollars and immediately began his campaign for the money.

Mr. L. H. Severance, President of the Board of Trustees and a large donor to the school, was approached; he replied that he had reached the irrevocable decision that he would give no more to Wooster while fraternities remained because he was convinced that they are in their influence inimical to the best interests of the college.

The various chapters of men’s and women’s fraternities were requested ‘to surrender their charters and to discontinue their organizations in the university…for the sake of the larger good of the college.’ The fraternities did not accede to the request. The matter was then brought before a special meeting of the Board of Trustees, and after discussion the decision was postponed until the regular meeting on February 13. On that day the trustees met at one-thirty p. m. and after a session lasting until midnight adjourned, having decided by a vote of thirteen to ten to discontinue fraternities in the school. So strong was the feeling among the Trustees that three of them resigned, feeling that the university ideals had given way to considerations of policy and financial gain .

As no charge had been made against fraternities either at Wooster or in general, except Mr. Severance’s indefinite attack, it is impossible to believe that the decision was made on justifiable grounds. The Trustees naturally paid close attention to the opinion of their Dean of Women, who, though a fraternity woman herself. showed an unreasoning hatred toward fraternities.

Although the Trustees’ decision was not reached until midnight, even in that ‘lights-out-at-ten-thirty’ dormitory the girls were soon informed of the result in typical college fashion. Every college girl who has ever lived in a dormitory knows the sensation made by a group of college men counting off a score and chanting college songs; but instead of a score of a victorious game, this was the number of trustees voting on each side of the question, and the regular college songs were modified into Wooster dirges. Members of all four girls’ fraternities gathered in one room and decided upon a Pan-Hellenic meeting at once. In those wee small hours, pledging was set for seven-fifteen that morning, and before chapel Pi Beta Phi had pledged and initiated nine splendid members. These, with the old members of the chapter attended chapel at nine-thirty and heard the formal announcement that no chapter should initiate anyone that day or any day in the future. The entire student body heard this decree in absolute silence. Many expressions of sympathy by non-fraternity students proved the sincere good feeling existing among all students.

Kappa Alpha Theta and Kappa Kappa Gamma also initiated women before chapel exercises. For that transgression, the three groups had to turn in their charters immediately. The Dean of Women, Winona Hughes, was an alumna of the Wooster Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter. (An account of the situation appeared in the 1932 History of Kappa Kappa Gamma and it is available at http://wiki.kkg.org/pages/Beta_Gamma.)

Woosters Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter shorrly before it was disbanded.

Wooster’s Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter shortly before it was disbanded.

And while the college dismantled its fraternity and sorority system in anticipation of a million dollar donation from Severance, it never saw one dime of the promised money. Severance died suddenly on June 25, 1913 without a will. 

Another account of the situation is from a 1914 Palm of Alpha Tau Omega:

The Wooster chapter has surrendered its charter and Ohio Beta Mu is no more. When the Wooster authorities announced that, in order to secure the Severance endowment, the fraternities would be ousted from its campus, in common with the whole Greek world, we protested against the outrageous crime. However, undismayed by its impending doom, our chapter continued to perform its duties and functions, and retained its charter in the hope that the ban might yet be lifted. Shortly after the passage of the resolution abolishing fraternities Mr. Severance died. He left no will and had not entered into any legal obligation binding upon his heirs or estate. This circumstance afforded some basis of the hope for the eventual reinstatement of the fraternities. 

Consequently the chapter continued to maintain its existence, although unable, because of the trustees’ resolution, to recruit itself by initiations. But President Holden has stubbornly resisted every effort to obtain a repeal of the odious ruling. It would seem that the only reason for the rule having vanished the rule itself should be abrogated. The man who purchased the honor of the institution having died without paying the tainted thirty pieces, there was no earthly reason why the college should not retrieve itself. But there are and there have been no assurances for a repeal during this administration of the college. In the meantime the chapter was reduced to numbers so small that it could not longer properly and adequately perform its constitutional obligations.

A surrender of its charter was inevitable and with the advice and consent of the Worthy Grand Chief and the High Council that step was finally taken.

The groups which had once been part of a national organization, with national oversight, became local organizations. It appears that they continued to act as organized groups (sections and clubs are two of the names the groups took on). In the years since then, many have taken on Greek letter names.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

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