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Last fall a group of Hanover students voiced a desire to identify Hanover College in a meaningful way with the National Civil Rights movement. They aroused enough interest to create a standing Student Senate Committee.
This Civil Rights committee, which has functioned the entire year, has interpreted its function as helping the Hanover community better understand the nature and scope of the contemporary Civil Rights movement.
The committee has not felt its purpose is to explore discrimination on campus. Several members of the TRIANGLE Editorial Board have specifically concerned themselves with the Hanover campus. In a series of editorials since last November these writers have attempted to define spheres where discrimination does, and does not, exist on the Hanover campus and have sought to urge student attention to certain areas.
These Board members have talked to large number of faculty and students. They have also contacted community and administrative leaders. (For example, this writer has conferred with President John E. Horner about Civil Rights on four occasions, once for a period of four hours.)
The basic research question was: Does a Negro have equal opportunity in all phases of the Hanover academic community -- It is reasonably certain that, in the area of administration and faculty, no racial discrimination of any kind is involved, neither in the selection of students and faculty, nor in any other compass.
Within the student body, however, there is one area of racial discrimination and this relates to the membership requirements of fraternities and sororities. In the span of years since the first Negro enrolled at Hanover in the early 1950's, no Negro has attempted to join a Greek letter organization. Any study in this realm, therefore, is operating without tangible evidence.
Yet, after careful researching, it is very convincing that no fraternity or sorority on the Hanover campus could rush, pledge, and initiate a Negro without disrupting their local chapter and without putting the college in a difficult position.
Each chapter has different obstacles that would prevent them from activating a Negro peacefully due to one or a combination of reasons: national policy prohibits Negro members; opposed alumni would withdraw financial support and levy embarrassment on the active chapter; prejudiced individual members in the active chapter would prevent any Negro from joining the organization by use of the blackball.
Responsible Greek members have stated that if their chapters pledged a Negro their house's present status would be in certain danger.
In at least three houses on campus the prospect for pledging a Negro in the next couple of generations is slight. These particular chapters are rooted in the South and have firm, traditional segregation policies.
After contacting officers of Greek units, a response of a senior fraternity president seems representative: "We know we are not able to take a Negro because of our national policy and alumni reaction. Even if this were different several actives have said they would blackball any Negro (one blackball would prevent initiation). We have been expecting the college to do something about it for a long time. If they do, I don't see what we could do about it."
In essence, the one area where true discrimination exists on the Hanover campus is in the membership of fraternities and sororities. It is time that students openly recognized this and seriously examined the relevant implications.
The topic has been discussed periodically by most chapters, but no local is at present attempting a full scale try to alleviate obstacles so that a Negro could be pledged the same as a white. The standard conclusion is "We should wait until a Negro actually goes out for rush and then deal with it."
This, I feel, is an irresponsible evasion that may cause a considerable disruption to one or more of Hanover's chapters and hardship the college at some future point.
Because their local fraternities and sororities declined to address themselves to the racial problem, many college administrations have had to step in. Across the nation, especially in the East, chapters have been requested to localize or disband.
The whole Greek movement has been greatly weakened by the racial issue and Greeks are now squarely on the defensive and the situation will progressively graven. This will undoubtedly involve a continuing loss of respect and support for fraternities and sororities.
Hanover is in a similar position to many other colleges. Since Hanover chapters have not attempted to actively reconcile their problems, the faculty and administration have been forced to take measures. At present there are both faculty and trustee committees working on Civil Rights. Last year the trustee committee was formed and has been meeting regularly since.
Probably one of the primary functions of this committee is to insure that all Hanover students have equal opportunity for academic, social, and extracurricular life at Hanover and that all college owned property is accessible to all students regardless of race, color, or creed.
At present this trustee committee is formulating a definite policy guide for the college. President Horner said announcement of this policy is forthcoming. There is every promise that this policy will be comprehensive and that there will be provision for administration action if certain standards are not met. This administrative policy should have a profound effect on the fraternity and sorority structure of Hanover. Dr. Horner has also been in communication with national fraternity and sorority leaders to explain Hanover's position.
Since it is the administration and trustees that ultimately determine college policy, faculty and students can best serve in complimentary ways. The faculty might help by conferring with individual fraternity and sorority leaders. Faculty might be able to help houses better understand particular problems and be aid in consul.
In addition, it is only understandable that those faculty who have a deep commitment on racial equality will feel the obligation to consider withdrawing their attendance and support of fraternity and sorority activities and functions until that time when there is adequate evidence that racial barriers no longer exist.
The real progress, if Greek organizations are to survive in their present form, must come from students. Each should openly face the question: what would happen if a majority of our actives wanted to pledge a Negro? Could we do it without trouble? If this approach is intelligently employed, chapters will recognize the dimensions of their own obstacles.
If the chapter wishes to be able to freely pledge a Negro, the next step is to do everything possible to remove the barriers preventing harmonious action. If it is national policy, national officers can be contacted and changes can be initiated at national conventions. If the national is irreconcilable, chapters can arrange to localize.
If it is alumni, the chapter can make their position known and try to work out a harmonious understanding. If actives pose a barrier, these individuals can be brought to see that members should be selected on their inherent characteristic and merits, not on the color of their skin.
If students want to consciously approach the problem, the numberless avenues of action will open up. The handwriting is on the wall. If Greeks choose to look the other way, others more responsible will read it for them. The time for meaningful action by Hanover fraternities and sororities is long overdue.