Last spring the Amherst chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, one of 12 nationally-affiliated fraternities at that college, pledged a Negro student. The group's national council threatened suspension of the local if they took in the boy. The chapter stuck to its guns, initiated the student last week, and was thrown out by the national council on Monday.
There has been, since the war, a strong move all along Fraternity Row to eliminate the peculiar institution of discrimination so graphically demonstrated by this issue. At Amherst and Williams, two of the country's most highly fraternized colleges, faculty and alumni committees allowed the houses to reopen on a probationary basis only; officials at the former school ruled that chapters whose national constitutions contained discriminatory clauses would have to clean up the constitutions or sever their connections.
The action of Phi Kappa Psi's national council--in direct opposition to the edict of an overall body known as the National Interfraternity Council, which last week upheld the right of a local chapter to select its own members--was not based on any constitutional provisions. The national just didn't think that a colored boy should be elected to the Amherst chapter.
There is very little glory involved for the students who made the decision to sustain their pledge and withdraw from the national fraternity. There is considerable financial risk--their house is owned by a group of graduates who may feel strong ties to the national body--and there is the loss of pledging power that will be a big factor once the aroma of this affair passes off.
The initiation of one Negro and the willingness of one chapter to throw away its national affiliation means little in itself. But if students are willing to go along with such recommendations as those laid down by the Amherst authorities, and to reassert them in the face of disapproval by the professional brothers who hold the purse-strings, the fraternity system may lose a good deal of the stench which has traditionally pervaded its operation.