beta theta chapter history

1800s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s - present

The Sixties

In the early sixties, the chapter continued on with much the same atmosphere and customs as the fifties.  The house was able to stay off academic probation, a considerable feat for the time.  The image remained one of "ties and jackets" and parties with style and class.  The house itself began to show some considerable wear from the constant use of 50-60 brothers and talk began concerning a remodeling project.

Though the Syracuse rivalry ended in 1961, trips to away football games were still important weekend events.  Some road trips were more spontaneous and resulted in Beta brothers showing up in Virginia, at Vassar, at Skidmore or other exotic and far away places.  Usually these impromptu forays resulted in several missed hourlies, but were rich in other forms of education.

On one trip to Vassar, one of the brothers managed to drop his date face first on the ice after consuming large quantities of a theretofore unnamed concoction, afterwards known as "Bloody Murphy's" in honor of Miss Murphy's chin.  One similar accident occurred while a bibulous brother was doing his version of Tolstoy's War and Peace by standing on the third floor window swilling some kind of potent potable.

This rendition proved too difficult and resulted in a headlong plunge onto the porch.  Protected by Wooglin's watchful eye, however, no injury resulted beyond loss of face.

Singing, as ever, remained high on the list of Beta activities, with songs after dinner and at opportune times downtown.  Songs usually resulted spontaneously during the Saturday morning breakfasts as well.  The house once brought in a calypso singer from Hamilton, Bermuda for spring party weekend.

The turmoil in the late sixties revolved around college campuses and Colgate was no exception.  In 1968, within a short six month span, occurred the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy and the "Tet" offensive in Vietnam. It was suddenly brought home to the Beta House with news of the death of one of the brothers in that latter action.

Within the house, there were increasingly divergent views of the situation in the country as well as the current campus activities.  On campus, certain elements were attacking the fraternities for being "tradition-entrenched bastions of racism".  The Beta constitution (in which no racism has ever been found) was, at that time, the only one open to general inspection and that house was the first on the row to endorse the actions of the Association of Black Collegians, the main thrust of the civil rights movement at Colgate.  This position, however, was not without opposition in the house, but as with any vigorous organization, growth and positive change were fostered by debate and conflicting views.

In the face of apathy and a movement to close down the fraternities at Colgate (which permanently ended three house and a fourth for three years), Beta Theta's history of strength through diversity allowed it to weather the storm.  This was a period of rapid change for the country, the college and the Beta house.  The ability to change in response to changing needs and roles was an essential asset.
Following this period of challenge and unrest came several financially difficult years due mainly to the temporary disenchantment with fraternities among a large segment of succeeding freshman classes.  During these years, the college administration and general alumni went through a period of estrangement due to the events of the late sixties, which were hard to for many alumni who were removed from the situation to accept.  As a result, the Beta house turned inward for advice and guidance and fund much in the person if Sid Dunster, who acted not only as cook, but as friend and counselor to the brothers.  At the same time, Ralph Jones – long standing alumni treasurer – continued to keep a keen eye and steady hand on all issues large and small.

The Earl Daniels memorial wing had been finished in the fall of '68 under Ralph's leadership and provided much needed space for the more than fifty resident brothers.  The dorm or rack room system, however, was preserved and the brothers fought over the windows being opened or closed in the second and third floor dorms.  Usually the "open" people won out and everyone froze.