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Zeta Psi Fraternity Derecognized by Dartmouth

By Vicky Hsu


The Psi Epsilon chapter of Zeta Psi fraternity has been permanently derecognized by Dartmouth College as punishment for publishing three internal newsletters with offensive sexual content.

“The decision primarily had to do with issues surrounding the harassment of individual students and allegations of the violation of several of the college’s coed, fraternity and sorority minimum standards,” Darmouth’s Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman told The Dartmouth.

The controversial newsletters contained descriptions of the sexual exploits of some brothers and advertised date rape techniques to appear in future issues.

The administration was made aware of the newsletters when Melissa Heaton, a junior at Dartmouth, took a letter from the house and combed through the fraternity’s trash for another.

The newsletter was condemned by 101 members of Dartmouth’s faculty, who wrote to Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees that “Clearly, single-sex Greek organizations are far from complying with the college’s non-discrimination policy.”

Others disputed the harshness of the punishment. “This action was not justified on the merits. The penalty imposed was overly harsh and grossly disproportionate to the offenses charged,” said Eugene Boyle, president of the Zeta Psi chapter at Dartmouth, in a statement to the press. “The newsletters did not contain any threats against women, and were humor, satire, and parody. They were designed to make fun of members of the fraternity.”

“We are very disappointed that Dartmouth College has taken the decision to issue a lifetime ban against the Psi Epsilon chapter of Zeta Psi fraternity without providing its members the due process to which they, and every citizen, are entitled,” Executive Director of Zeta Psi Fraternity of North America Richard Breeswine said in a statement.

Students react to derecognition

Members of the Rho Alpha chapter of Zeta Psi at MIT and several other students interviewed had similar sentiments. “I do think that National should conduct its own investigation and appeal if it decides that the injunction was too harsh,” said Daniel J. Talavera ’02, president of the Zeta Psi chapter at MIT.

“This whole issue has been blown out of proportions. People should be able to say whatever they want to say, as long as they don’t do things physically to a person,” said Presley H. Cannady ’02. “I believe that society today is full of weak people. We see an example of this at Dartmouth, where hippies run the college and they enforce their liberal views on everybody,” Cannady said.

Others, however, felt the punishment was appropriate.

Ed Freidheim, a brother of the Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity at Dartmouth, said that while the punishment “puts every other house in danger,” the derecognition “was well deserved. The chapter was temporarily derecognized in 1987 for publishing the same type of newsletters. They should have learned their lesson,” he said.

The 101 faculty members continued in their letter to the Dartmouth Board of Trustees that “We ourselves have never felt more disappointed by the administration’s failure to address the systemic and incalculable harm that both our students and our own pedagogical work suffer by Dartmouth’s acceptance and support of structures that promote such attitudes of entitlement and disrespect.”

The faculty members invited the trustees to “revisit the question concerning the future of the Greek system at Dartmouth College” at a general faculty meeting yesterday.

MIT reflects on Dartmouth’s action

Dean for Student Life Larry G. Bendict said, “I don’t know what would happen [should such an incident happen at MIT], but I expect that it would go through the IFC Judcomm. The ATO and ND posters incidents were handled by Judcomm,” said Benedict.

“You have to consider how your actions will affect the rest of the community. If you think that you can publish something totally private, you’re wrong,” said Benedict.

“Clearly, this was an unfortunate incident,” said Assistant Dean of FSILGs David Rogers. “It was both in bad taste and void of any common sense.”

Rogers, noting he is not a Dartmouth administrator and not familiar of the history of Zeta Psi at Dartmouth, declined to comment on the punishment, “except to say that some action needed to be taken.”

“If the publication occured at MIT, again, it is completely offensive and contrary to the mission of the MIT community and the FSILG community. I hope that it would become an opportunity to rally together as a community to speak out against such behavior,” he added.

A similar incident allegedly happened at MIT some years ago. “Some girls continuously published a list of men with whom they had had sex, and rated their [the men’s] sexual performances. The last issue came out around seven years ago,” said Jimmy C. Wu ’01. It is not certain whether there was any administration response.

Vice President of the MIT Inter-fraternity council Bryan Schmid said that “an incident like this has never happened at MIT before, thus there is no precedent [case for the IFC to consult].

“If it were ever to occur, this incident looks badly on the IFC, and will be brought in front of the Judicial Committee for review,” he added.

“Every time a single fraternity receives negative media attention, the Greek system is affected. I do however hope that people realize that fraternities differ from campus to campus,” said Talavera.

“We lament the loss of one of our organizations, but we’re going to use the Zeta Psi incident as a means of change,” said Eric Powers, President of Dartmouth’s Interfraternity Council. “The fraternity presidents are now coming together to look introspectively and determine exactly how we can avoid such situations. I think people realize that offensive behavior is on its way out of the Greek system.”

Dartmouth has given the brothers of Zeta Psi until the end of the school year to move out of their house. The Zeta Psi fraternity still owns the house, but any brother living in it after June 10, 2001 will not be allowed to register for classes at Dartmouth College in the fall.