A Sort of Evening

By The Editors / September / October 2002
June 29th, 2007
The headline in the Brown Daily Herald said: "Rush Week Ends; Twenty Students Taken to Prison."

It had all the makings of a bad night as the fraternities pledged their new delegations Saturday, April 5. And University officers who remembered Black Friday, with its tragedy against a similar background, wanted none of that. [Black Friday was March 4, 1949, that semester's pledge night, which the Brown Daily Herald characterized as a "campus-wide beer orgy." Fights broke out on campus and downtown, and one fraternity member fell down a set of stairs at the Delta Phi house and died from his injuries the following day. - Editor]

It started, as had the other one, with the release from the competitive tension of the rushing period, the welcome for new pledges, and an exchange of greetings between rival houses. The form they take is what determines the sort of evening.

This one lasted long. The Quadrangle was being tried out as a rallying place, and it proved to have intimacy, scope, and good acoustics. On hand also was wood such as the workmen on the last construction were apt to burn - and the place where they burned it. There were skirmishes of excitement around the two great courtyards, alternating and rambling periods of celebration and calm.

It was in the early morning hours and outside the Quadrangle across Thayer St. that the real trouble took place. The police had been called, and one of them was stupid with a gun. At that flourish, scores of students raced down from their spectator posts to get into or nearer the ruckus. Without much selectivity, the police scooped up twenty Brunonians from the area and took them to the station downtown. Dean [Westcott E.S.] Moulton ['31], who had been a witness of some of the incidents, could back up certain student protests of innocence if not bystanding.

The University authorities took prompt disciplinary action, and President [Henry] Wriston announced penalties next day at a meeting of the fraternity presidents and the I.G.B. [Interfraternity Governing Board]: College social events for the coming weekend were cancelled. No fraternity initiations will be permitted for the remainder of the academic year (since no Freshmen were to be initiated until the fall, this did not affect too many men). Undergraduate leaders were given three days to "show cause" why Brown should not cancel the traditional festivities of Spring Weekend, scheduled for May 2Ð4. They were also instructed to state under what terms the Spring Weekend would be conducted if permitted. (The student case was good enough so that Spring Weekend stayed on the books.) The fraternities will submit a proposal for next year with reference to Pledge Night. In addition, disciplinary measures were taken with regard to certain individual students.

As we said, it was not a good evening; it might have become worse. But there was also some question about whether it needed to be as bad as it was.

One definition of millennium is: "That day when a policeman understands a student and a student understands a policeman." In the meantime, a Dean has to understand both. Dean Moulton seems to.

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Related Issue
September / October 2002