Bernard C. (Bernard Capen) Ewer.

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this growth dangerous tendencies have again and again
come to light, tendencies to unwise expenditure, to sheer
extravagance and to misuse of funds in supporting clandes-
tine professionalism. In fact, many of the prevalent evils
are distinctly traceable to the money root; and the lack
of proper financial publicity has shown itself to be clearly
akin to certain well known tendencies of American "big
business" not a good example for the financing of college
athletics. These conditions are avoided in leading institu-
tions by entrusting the management to an experienced
alumnus who is responsible to a directorate composed of
representatives of the faculty, the alumni, and the student
body. Incidentally the proper auditing and publication
of accounts serves to prevent financial mismanagement. 8

In a few cases the extreme action of abolishing intercollegiate
sport, wholly or in part, has been taken, and of course without
disastrous consequences, either student insurrection or loss of
attendance. Yet this is not the remedy to be sought, partly
because it is opposed by the overwhelming sentiment of students
and alumni, partly because there are better ways of curing the
diseased member than total amputation.

Since much money has proved to be the root of athletic bad
practices, it has been proposed that this be cut by excluding the
public from games, either directly, or indirectly, by dispensing
with grandstands. This seems to me to belong to the large
category of reforms which are genuinely impracticable. It is im-


One point which seems clear is that games should be
played only on the grounds of the competitors. Athletic
spectacles in distant cities for the sake of gate receipts
are unjustifiable.

Correlated with this reform is the expansion of the
"athletic association" to include the whole student body.
Every member then pays an athletic tax, sometimes through
the college office, and thereby gains admission to all games,
as well as a voice and vote in control, in electing officers,
and in determining matters of general policy. The advan-
tage of this method of regulation is that it encourages
everybody to take an active interest in athletics. It tends
to make them everybody's business, and to prevent them
from becoming the enterprise of a sporting oligarchy. At
the same time the democratic principle leads to cooperative
action on the part uf several colleges ; and dual agreements
or larger leagues accomplish by concerted effort the elimi-
nation of abuses and the establishment of rules which all
must observe under heavy penalties for evasion. Experi-
ments which a college is unwilling to undertake alone are
willingly made in company with others. The result is a
gradual but universal uplift of moral tone.

The all important duty of faculty authority is that of
requiring players to be genuine college students, which
means requiring them to maintain creditable scholarship.
Faculties sometimes impose direct restrictions upon ath-
letics, but except in so far as these are related to scholar-
ship requirements they are hardly the part of wisdom.
The counsels of a faculty room are too likely to express
ignorance and impatience, and their ingenuity is consider-
ably less than that of the undergraduate in evading them.
Faculty regulation is most successful when it defines
eligibility in terms of scholarship and resolutely maintains

possible to draw any clear line between the part of the public
which is rightly interested the alumni, and the friends and
relatives of students and those for whom a contest is merely an
entertaining spectacle. Also something may be said in favor of
this means of keeping the public interested in the college. The
recent building of huge stadia shows a current of sentiment too
strong to be bluntly checked. It may, however, be diverted into
channels of sound financial method.


standards. In support of this effort there is good reason
for not allowing first year students to participate in inter-
collegiate contests on the ground that a year is needed
to demonstrate eligibility for restricting players to four
years, and for limiting the numbers of sports in which
they participate. These rules tend to prevent the drafting
of secondary school athletes, the theft of stars from other
colleges, and various evils of excess, but their main function
is that of necessitating scholarship as a condition of play.
That the college should be "represented" by individuals
who are not genuine students is intolerable, and it is to
the credit of faculties that in the face of obstacles they
persistently try to prevent it. 7

The regulative duty of the student body is that of
securing fair play. The players are their representatives,
the sport is their sport, the spirit of the thing is supposed
to be honest, good humored and chivalrous. No regulation
by superior authorities can maintain the proper spirit unless
it is supported by student sentiment. The desire for
victory must be subordinated to higher motives in the
undergraduate mind. In particular there are three distinct
possibilities of improvement. In the first place, they can
see to it that athletic representatives are genuinely repre-
sentative of themselves, and this signifies that players are
not clandestinely paid for playing, and that their general
behavior is reputable. They are disgraced by the athletic
sneak and the athletic tough who play in their name,
whether or not victory results. Second, they can discoun-
tenance unfair tactics on the field. If a college represen-

7 The difficulty of enforcing requirements of scholarship is much
greater than many critics suppose. In addition to ordinary
pedagogical difficulties, such as large classes and the impossi-
bility of preventing dishonesty, the instructor sometimes has to
face the adverse influence of an administration inclined to favor
loose conditions, and a vociferous student and alumni sentiment
which resents any interference with the efficiency of teams. It is
hard to discriminate between legitimate and illegitimate excuses
for failure to comply with requirements. Coses of delinquency
are often uncomfortably close to the line, for example, the in-
dispensable pitcher whose percentage in trigonometry is fifty-
nine, or the half-back who is short some thirty pages of collateral
reading. What is just in such instances is not always clear.


tative cuts a base because the umpire isn't looking, or
deliberately makes a foul tackle, or elbows a competitor
in a sprint, he deserves a sharp rebuke, hissing from the
grandstand or a formal protest in the college paper. On
occasion every power of the college press, of student
meetings, of incidental conversation at college commons
and in fraternity houses, ought to be brought to bear to
correct abuses and secure fair play. For it is a funda-
mental point, about which there must be no quibbling, that
college sport must be clean.

The ordinary undergraduate sentiment about existing
evils is that they are exceptional, or unimportant, or
justified by common practice. "Others do these things and
we must" is the familiar excuse. But this ignores a most
important fact the college is the seat of freedom, the
place essentially fitted to advocate and initiate reform.
Where if not in the college may we expect that a question
shall be considered on its merits, and an abuse eliminated
because it is wrong? College education is radically defec-
tive unless it develops a judicial, unprejudiced habit of
mind which takes action in the right direction whether
others do or not. The ideal of playing a game with the
utmost fairness, of desiring to win but preferring to lose
honorably rather than win dishonorably, of rebuking
unfairness wherever it appears, this is surely no chimerical
ideal for the college to cultivate.

The most effective regulation, therefore, proceeds along
these three lines : sound financial method, including mature
oversight and publicity; the definition of eligibility in
terms of scholarship, and the cultivation of the sentiment
of fair play. These conditions are gradually being
attained; the process of eliminating evil practices is
actually going on.


Intercollegiate athletics, as we have seen, have fre-
quently run into professionalism, in fact professionalism
in college sport is a kind of bete noir, always shunned,
but always showing its head or tail on the field and in the
newspapers. Not that the thing itself is bad. There is


certainly nothing essentially disgraceful in receiving money
for athletic performances, or even in earning a livelihood
by such talent. The significance of the distinction between
professional and amateur sport is simply that the former
monopolizes effort, involves more persistent and systematic
training, and is usually more addicted to bad habits and
manners ruthlessness, trickery, unscrupulous readiness to
take advantage of an opponent, and so on. The amateur
is supposed to play for fun and to conduct himself as a
gentleman. Though the distinction is far from clear or
reliable, it signalizes an important truth that sport is
most likely to be honorable when there is nothing at stake
but honor. Accordingly it appears desirable to conduct
college athletics strictly on an amateur basis.

The difficulty of doing this, however, is very great, and
the vexatiousness of the problem arises in part from
the fact that the proper application of the terms amateur
and professional is not clear. There are various kinds of
reward for services, and no sharp line between those which
are legitimate and those which are not. It is professional,
of course, to accept money for playing, but not so to
accept medals or cups; yet the latter have a money value,
and are sometimes sold for cash. It is wrong to award
a scholarship or give free board at a training table merely
because of athletic proficiency; but suppose the recipient
to be a fellow who deserves the scholarship on other
grounds, or who pays all he can afford for board which
costs much more is he then an amateur? Uniforms are
perhaps reasonably regarded as accessories of the game
to which the player is entitled; but does the same category
include expensive sweaters, blankets, and mementos of the
season? And what about travelling expenses and luxurious
hotel accommodations? These are not pay in the narrow
meaning of the term, but they constitute rewards which
are not simply honor, and which serve as motives for
participation. Apparently college athletics cannot be
conducted without expenses so large that the bills must
be paid by persons other than the participants; but this
inevitably raises puzzling questions concerning proper and
improper emoluments.


Secondly, covert professionalism cannot be detected.
Direct or indirect payment for playing summer baseball
is beyond control, and there is also occasional participation
in other sports for money, and paid coaching of school
athletics, all of which goes under cover of an assumed
name or other conditions which are "safe." Even more
insidious is the indirect payment for athletic services.
Undeserved scholarships are distributed, bills for room
rent are never presented to the occupant, board bills are
cancelled, fictitious wagers are won, worthless articles are
sold for high prices, and the like. Competent athletes
have been munificently rewarded for the burdensome labor
of winding a clock, presumably of the eight day kind, and
for strolling around the athletic field to assure the man-
agement that the fences needed no repairing. Clever
players have often been entirely supported by wealthy
alumni, ostensibly on philanthropic grounds. Concealment
of pecuniary transactions has become a fine art, and pre-
varication a fixed custom. Against this sort of evasion
neither pledges of honor nor available detective skill are
effective. The parties to the surreptitious business are of-
ten the only ones who have the evidence, and while each of
two competing teams may be aware of each other's profes-
sionalism it would be regarded as highly dishonorable as
well as manifestly injudicious to reveal the facts. College
athletes live in houses of glass and throw no stones.

The condition which confronts us, then is this.
Strictly amateur sport, in which the participant plays for
fun and pays his own expenses, hardly exists in inter-
collegiate athletics; the latter are expensively supported
by the spectators, and are permeated by a desire of winning
rather than by a love of playing. On the other hand
professionalism of the flagrant sort is outlawed; individual
performance for pay is not permitted if it can be helped.
Between these extremes lies the actual state of affairs,
complex and puzzling. It is not amateur sport, even
though it pretends to be; it is not professional sport,
even though it includes a considerable amount of covert
professionalism. Ought we to tolerate it, to try to define
it satisfactorily, to regard it as approximately the solution


of the problem? Or ought we to make an end of its
intricacies of "eligibility" and perhaps also of its elaborate
organization and huge expensiveness ?

It is sometimes proposed that colleges abandon the
troublesome distinction between amateur and professional
athletes, and insist simply that a player who represents it
shall be a genuine student; in good college standing, and
unpaid by any college agency. This, it is said, would
largely remove the temptation to prevaricate, and if re-
enforced by financial publicity and by the exclusion of
first year students from varsity teams, would not involve
a lowering of the moral tone of the sport. The amount
of professional spirit thus introduced into college games
would not constitute a serious problem ; bad habits, bad
manners, the win-at-any-cost motive would not appear
conspicuously greater than at present. I believe this to
be true. College athletics need nothing more than proper
publicity and clear evidence of seriousness of student
purpose. The principal reforms have been made along
these lines. But conditions are still far from satisfactory;
too often the athlete is not studious, and the financial
management is shrewdly unscrupulous. Until better condi-
tions are assured it is doubtful whether we ought to
abandon present safeguards.



Origin and Development

The causes of fraternity and sorority organization are
found in certain instincts of human nature, particularly
the "group instinct" of flocking together upon a basis of
common sympathies and purposes, the instinct of secrecy,
which seeks to protect intimate personal affairs from the
gaze of the outer world, and of course the universal ten-
dency to imitation. Everywhere in society, in all stages
of civilization, these instincts may be observed at work.
They have created manifold secret societies, patriotic,
industrial, social and religious, some of them huge in size
and power. They are usually idealistic in motive, and this
is especially true of college fraternities. Nothing could be
more admirable than the moral aims proposed by their
founders. The Constitution of the United States is hardly
more dignified than the utterance of young men in forming
a fraternity. Ritual, motto, grip, and badges, though in-
trinsically unimportant, are zealously guarded as symbols
of personal and social idealism.

College and university life has always produced special
groupings of students. The "nations" of the early Euro-
pean universities are a historic illustration. In the colonial
colleges literary and debating societies played a noteworthy
part, and the modern fraternity is in some sense an
outgrowth of these. The first "Greek letter" society was
Phi Beta Kappa, which was founded in 1776 at the College
of William and Mary by a group of earnest souls who
desired to express in concrete form their ideals of friend-
ship, scholarship and patriotism. As a parent body it
authorized the establishment of "chapters" at Yale, Har-



vard and Dartmouth and other colleges. After some years,
however, it renounced its secret character and became
distinctly a scholarly and honorary organization. Others
appeared in the early part of the nineteenth century;
between 1820 and 1830 three originated at Union College,
and thereafter fraternity and chapter origins were fre-
quent. The extension of higher education to women led
to the formation of sororities, the first one of national
scope being Kappa Alpha Theta, which was organized at
De Pauw in 1870. 1

The development of college fraternities may be divided
into two periods. During the first, which continued through
most of the last century they were simply societies of
kindred spirits, holding regular meetings for literary and
social purposes in unpretentious lodge rooms, having un-
important secrets, and binding members together by strong
ties of friendship and common activity. At first there was
opposition to them, both within and without the college
walls. College authorities and the interested public feared
the growth of irresponsible power, or suspected the perpe-
tration of immoral practices. Other students often resented
being left outside the fold. In general, however, the
societies maintained themselves in the face of opposition.
When discountenanced or suppressed they lurked on in
deeper secrecy or gave way to other types of organization.
In time the opposition waned and they gained a recognized
place in college life.

The second stage of development covers the last thirty
or forty years. It is characterized by the increasingly
dominant influence of fraternity interests in the life of
members, and by the "fraternity house" as a college home.
In this period, also, certain menacing features appeared ;
particularly social exclusiveness and distraction from study.
Signs of a third period are distinctly visible, however, since

1 In some institutions, notably Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the
older colleges for women, and many of the small colleges, fra-
ternities and sororities, either do not exist, or else play an
insignificant part in college life. State legislatures have occa-
sionally outlawed them from state universities, and the women's
colleges have in several instances deliberately given them up. As
a rule their place is taken by clubs constituted on other principles.


the unmistakably bad effects upon individual members and
upon the college dispose all parties to eliminate the evils
and to make the fraternity instrumental to the general

There are at present some thirty-three college fraterni-
ties and seventeen college sororities having a general or
national organization, beside fifty or more professional
and technical school fraternities which have no college
chapters. In addition there are many "local fraternities"
existing in single institutions. The national bodies publish
magazines containing fraternity and college news, and
their conventions are often made impressive by the presence
of distinguished leaders of public affairs.

The total membership, alumni and undergraduate, is
about three hundred thousand. Fraternity organization, in
fact, enrolls approximately half the college students in
the country, though the percentage varies greatly in dif-
ferent institutions. The character of the membership is
for the most part admirable. The alumni ranks include
presidents, judges of the Supreme Court, senators and
representatives, dignitaries of the church, and distinguished
captains of industrial and commercial life. Undergraduate
chapters contain a large proportion of the ablest students
in the college, those having broad interests and superior
mental ability- There is in general a praiseworthy desire
to develop a rounded character by choosing for associates
men of varied interests, representative of different aspects
of college life; fraternities are well aware that an intercol-
legiate debater, a half back and the editor of the college
paper may possess a common good fellowship. On the
other hand the character of a chapter tends to become
fixed by a process of instinctive selection which draws into
its ranks those who possess certain agreeable qualifications.
Thus certain groups are characterized by scholarship, by
wealth, by social activity, and sometimes by worse traits.

The current period of fraternity development is char-
acterized by the fraternity house. About half the total
number of college chapters have dwellings which they
have rented, bought or built for their own purposes.
These are in some instances an outgrowth of a compact


dormitory life. In colleges without dormitories, and
particularly in the state universities, the fraternity house
has come almost by necessity, being decidedly preferable
to isolated and perhaps neglected rooms in lodging houses.
The more luxurious dwellings, sometimes costing from
fifty to a hundred thousand dollars, provide the expensive
appurtenances of club life. Occasionally they are financial
incubi, constant sources of debt or burdens to loyal alumni.
The fraternity house is also the source of many administra-
tive problems which trouble college authorities.

The Value of the Fraternity

The fundamental advantage of the fraternity is that it
constitutes a college home. The term has deep significance.
Broadly speaking, home life is by far the most effective
system of social and moral education; in respect to essen-
tials of character almost everybody is what his home has
made him. On entering college, however, one usually
passes beyond the immediate range of these home influ-
ences. Neither the populous dormitory nor the solitary
"furnished room to let" is homelike. If the student is
mature or self dependent he gets along well enough, except
perhaps for occasional loneliness or the loss of some
refining influences. But for many the situation is unhappy,
and precisely here the fraternity often proves helpful.
It may provide living accommodations better than those
of dormitory or boarding house many fraternities show
superior refinement in their material advantages; but in
any case it enmeshes every member with a network of
personal relations. They are friendships, and more; they
deserve the name of "brotherhood." They may be and
often are like the relations within a well regulated family,
sympathetic, mutually helpful, lifelong. Returning alumni
enter the fraternity house as they would reenter their
own homes, and become at once, simply and unaffectedly,
the big brothers of "the boys." Visiting members of other
chapters are received with the unpretentious hospitality of
kinsfolk. Indeed, wherever the wayfarer finds a group
of college youth wearing his own mystic letters he is
assured of being "at home."


Out of this material comfort and personal intimacy
grows another advantage, namely "individual training."
The freshman, descending from his exalted position as a
desirable candidate and from the solemn ceremony of
initiation, finds himself a humble servant of the common
weal. Broom, coal shovel and lawn mower round off
obtrusive corners of individuality. If he is lazy or
refractory he is appropriately disciplined. If he needs
polish, acquaintance with social usages and conventionali-
ties, he may acquire these more easily from fraternal
example than from the casual associations of dormitory
or commons. If he flounders in studies, perhaps receiving
little personal attention from instructors, older brethren
can help him, making themselves tutors and giving detailed
instruction such as the teacher of hundreds cannot give.
Thus in a variety of ways the unfledged youngster may
learn to use his own powers in his college home.

Fraternity life also gives valuable training in administra-
tive affairs, since the offices of president, chairman, treas-
urer, steward, committee member, delegate, and the like,
all call for skill in dealing with men and things. Practical
responsibility is a most efficient school, and the task of
engineering a fraternity may help to prepare one for
managing the business of a corporation. The regular busi-
ness meetings of the chapter give helpful training. 2

2 Some of the best parliamentary procedure I have seen was
that of a certain fraternity. Regular business, special business,

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Online LibraryBernard C. (Bernard Capen) EwerCollege study & college life → online text (page 16 of 19)