Carroll College to close Beta Pi Epsilon house
If all goes as planned, at the end of this school year the identity of the state’s oldest fraternity, Beta Pi Epsilon, will be changed forever. The Carroll Administration has decided to close their house.
This was not a spur-of-the moment decision on the part of the administration, said Senior Vice President Dean Rein. Dating back at least 10 years, he said, the Betas, as the fraternity’s members are known on campus, have committed numerous violations of college policies.
“There was a series of events last year that had potential to cause harm to students,” said Rein. “It was my recommendation to the President [with the Dean of Students] that we begin the process of closing the house.”
Rocco Lazaris, president of Beta Pi Epsilon, said that upon hearing rumors that the college plans to close the house, many neighbors asked fraternity members how they could help the fraternity keep its house. “They are sad to see us leave,” he said, “They like having us here.”
The series of events mentioned by Rein includes an alleged sexual assault that occurred at the Beta House around Homecoming 2001. During the administration’s investigation, which lasted many months, the school changed the house’s locks, and people who were not residents of the house were forbidden to enter.
“They labeled us as guilty during their investigation,” said Lazaris, “It would be like putting an entire dorm on lockdown just because somebody who lived there did something wrong.” The fraternity denies any foul play had occurred. “Why wouldn’t they want to push the fact that nothing happened? It makes the school look better, and it makes us look better,” he said.
Although the investigation took several months, no official charges were filed, and the Betas said that, upon fraternity investigation, the police were never even contacted. The fraternity is convinced that Dean of Students Kate Herrick did not conduct the investigation in the appropriate manner. Rein, however, said that Herrick and others involved in the investigation took all of the correct steps.
For the administration, last year’s events were the final straw, and they decided the situation needed to change. The option they felt was the fairest was to eliminate all fraternity housing, and to offer them a space on campus where members can meet. A meeting was held between Rein, the Beta Pi Epsilon Alumni Council, and the fraternity’s current officers about the changes. A written agreement with the Alumni Council states the policies and procedures for this school year and has been signed by every member of the fraternity.
“Carroll College is not closing the fraternity,” said Rein, “Our intent is that Greek organizations can continue and should continue in the same manner as other student organizations.” Many colleges around the country are facing the same situation, however, and have chosen to eliminate Greek life altogether.
“I do not believe a fraternity has to have a house to be successful,” Rein said, citing Carroll’s sororities and the newly houseless Delta Rho Upsilon as examples.
Rev. Bill Humphreys, Carroll’s chaplain and the Greek Council’s staff advisor, disagreed.
“Having a house is a good thing,” he said. Humphreys believes that mutual academic support, social and leadership skills, and community building are potential outcomes of a fraternity house, and are different from the life skills that could be gained by members of customary student organizations.
“It’s beneficial for fraternities to have houses because they create a social life at the school,” Lazaris said. He added that the Betas feel fraternity houses give all students a place on campus to escape from dorm life.
Lazaris also emphasized that donations to Carroll College by Beta alumni are likely to decrease. He said that 70- 75 percent of people who donate took part in Greek life as students. The fraternity feels a house gives the alumni members a place to return to, and if this is taken away from them, the school may lose a great deal of alumni funding because they would feel disconnected from their roots. Until May 2003, when the house is scheduled to be closed for good, the members, alumni and supporters of Beta Pi Epsilon will continue to fight for their house.
As Humphreys said about the housing situation, “It’s changeable until after the fact.”