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Williams College Bans Fraternities; Student Reaction to Decision Mixed


Amid mixed student and alumni reaction, including petitions and an attempted riot, the administration of Williams College is attempting to implement a new housing program that the school's fraternities feel threatens their existence.

The new program, based on a study by a committee of trustees, would stress undergraduate "intellectual attainment" by buying the 15 fraternity houses and putting all students in college-run board, room and social units by next September.

This year, 94 per cent of Williams upperclassmen eat at fraternity houses; 44 per cent live in them.

The trustee study and its recently released report were occasioned in 1961 by a student petition opposing fraternities and suggesting a change. Only 50 students signed the statement, but, said John Kifner, editor of the Williams Record, "they were a very influential group."

When the report was accepted and the college began negotiations to buy frat houses this fall, 77 per cent of fraternity members signed a protest petition.

Two houses, according to Richard Berger--Record exchange editor--recently attempted a protest rally in front of the college president's home. Although it allegedly included "gotchas" from windows in nearby frat houses, Berger considered it "really a failure."

Both the newspaper and the college's senior honor society have issued statements approving the new program. Alumni letters, according to the college news office, are also in favor.

Alumni resistance, according to Berger, is concentrated in objections to selling the fraternity buildings. Kappa Alpha, however, has conditionally donated its house to the college.

"I think," commented Kifner, "that if you had a vote tomorrow, most of the students would endorse the status quo, but there's definitely a sense of something being wrong with the social system. Student opinion is split."

Objections to the fraternity system are nothing new at Williams. In 1960 the clubs were ordered opened to all upperclassmen, after discriminatory practices had been ordered eliminated two years earlier.

The new trustee report, and its acceptance by the administration, may mean the final blow. 'I don't think," said Kifner, "that the fraternities will be able to survive after next fall."

He also thought there would be no effective resistance.

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