Letter to the Editor: Beta Pi Epsilon Alumni Board’s official response to house closing

The following letter was originally written to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but was submitted to The New Perspective.

January 15, 2003 Dear Editor, The Beta Pi Epsilon Alumni Board has been asked to respond to the article that appeared in the Carroll College newspaper on November 21, 2002 (The New Perspective) regarding the closure of the Beta House, 120 McCall St., Waukesha, Wisconsin.

The Alumni Board is happy to respond and does so by virtue of this joint letter.

Simply stated, without any prior notice to the fraternity or its alumni board, the Carroll College administration has decided to close Beta housing in May, 2003. The Beta housing has existed on McCall Street since 1956. The Betas are believed to be the oldest fraternity in the state (since 1906) and were looking forward to their 100th anniversary in three years.

The members of the college administration who were instrumental in closing the house were Senior Vice President Dean Rein and Dean of Students Kate Herrick. Dean Rein stated in the college newspaper “Carroll College is not closing the fraternity” and “I do not believe a fraternity has to have a house to be successful.” In addition, Dean Rein cites the Delta Rho Upsilon group as an example of a successful fraternity but not having a house.

In our opinion, the statements made by Dean Rein were convenient statements for the administration to make but have no factual support. Reasons: Delta Rho Epsilon has a pending lawsuit against Carroll College where the college is a party defendant challenging the right of the college to close the Delta Rho house which is next door to the Betas. It is obvious that having this house is important to the continuity of the Delta Rho Upsilon fraternity.

In addition, all Carroll College sororities have suites where they can regularly meet, conduct fraternal affairs, watch television, and enjoy friendship of each other on at least a weekly basis.

As to the Betas, the college has simply declared their house closed and has failed, neglected and refused in any way to provide or offer any sort of alternative meeting place where the Beta fraternity could meet on a regular basis. For some reason, it has provided that accommodation to the sororities for years. Without a house the Beta fraternity will dissolve.

In May, 2002, Kate Herrick summoned two of the Beta members to her office. She was apparently investigating some disturbance at the college and thought the Betas were involved. Upon questioning the two men and apparently not having received the answers that she wanted, she (1) began screaming at them, and (2) threw the student handbook at one of the men. The two men had been truthful in their statements.

In addition, Kate Herrick was apparently in charge of an investigation into alleged misconduct by the Betas during the homecoming weekend in October 2001. According to Kate Herrick, the administration would investigate various allegations that were made and “get back” to the fraternity. Although the investigation took several months, Betas were basically not contacted for their side of the story and the college simply (1) ordered the house to be closed, and (2) changed the house locks and people who were not residents of the house were forbidden to enter (including parents of the students). Neither the fraternity nor the alumni board were contacted by the college for any corrective action that the school felt was necessary.

In June 2002, the college issued a mandate that a signed contract between the college and the Betas had to be executed before commencement of the school of the school year in the fall, 2002. The implication was that the college would not allow housing for the 2001- 2002 school year unless the Betas agreed to close the house in May 2003. This mandate by the school also came at a time when the Beta members were wondering where they would live for the 2002-03 year. It was within this “climate” of administration action that a contract was signed.

It appears the old adage “You can’t fight City Hall” prevails with the Carroll College administrators and the Betas. It is unfortunate that these administrators couldn’t negotiate on whatever corrective action they felt was necessary.

In our considered opinion, the college administrators preferred to dictate to the young people over whom they had ultimate power, than to listen and evaluate and negotiate with experienced adults (the alumni board). In doing so, the destruction of an institution that has existed since 1906 on the college campus has begun.

The statement has been made that donations to the college by the Beta alumni would decrease if the house has closed. In our opinion, the position of the Beta board is as follows: Although the administration seeks to bring an end to the fraternity through the closing of the house, it is the decision of each individual as to whether to continue his donations to the college. Through the excellent efforts of President Frank Falcone and his college fundraisers the college has millions in its properties and various funds. We are sure that the college appreciates the donations of the Beta members. However, the giving or lack of giving by individual Beta members or as a fraternity probably has minimal effect, one way or the other. It cannot and should not be used as a threat against the college.

The authors of this letter are Curt Brewer, Jim Coutts, and John Schreiber (alphabetically). All have several things in common and they are:

  • All are Carroll College graduates
  • All are members of Beta Pi Epsilon fraternity
  • All are members of Beta Pi Epsilon alumni board for a period of 6-8 years with 6- 8 other members
  • All are annual contributors to Carroll College, some modest, some large
  • All have an interest in keeping the Beta house open

In addition, the authors have a collective 120 years experience in listening to and evaluating people and in negotiating sometimes stressful situations to a proper conclusion—Mr. Brewer as a practicing attorney, Mr. Coutts as a retired teacher and now mayor of Cedarburg, and Mr. Schreiber as a business man who spent approximately forty years working with the public.

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