(William C. Levere, Secretary of The College Reference Bureau, Evanston, Illinois, recently asked President Ellis to make a brief statement of his attitude towards the Greek Letter Fraternities that have existence in so many educational institutions of higher rank. The reply sent is given in full.)
I became a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, early in 1866. Ever since that date, I have felt a special interest in my own fraternity and a general and friendly interest in all organizations of a like character.
The fraternity question, like all other questions, has two sides. Advocates unduly exalt; opponents unduly denounce. “To be or not to be,” is a question which yet includes much debatable territory. While I, with numerous others, recognize the short-comings of the Greek fraternities, as organized and conducted to-day, I also am of opinion that more can be said in their favor than can be said truthfully against them.
In my college days, fraternity life was not expensive. Social activities were not frequent enough to interfere with legitimate college work. Scholarship ranked higher in the estimation of fraternity- members than good clothes and a plethoric pocket-book.
I am free to say that I do not think fraternity life means so much of good to the student now as it did forty years ago; but, perhaps, this view of mine is but another instance where “distance lends enchantment to the view.”
Fraternity life in college was a decided help to me. It prompted me to definite and con-tinued effort to stand well in my classes; it led me to take an active part in the exercises of the college literary society to which I belonged; it made me an embryo student of human nature inasmuch as I was observant of the desirable and undesirable qualities of some of my fellow- students who might be proposed for member-ship in the fraternity to which I belonged; and, finally, but not to exhaust the benefits that might be named, it gave me a congenial body of young associates with whom strong ties of friendship were formed.
Some influences the college fraternity had upon me defy analysis and description. I have always felt that contact with my fellows in the close bonds of the fraternity gave me a feeling that something of worth was expected of me; in other words, that I was expected to “make good” while in college and after leaving col- lege. These impressions and influences can not be described in set forms of speech. They be- come a part of one’s mental being just as assim- ilited food becomes a part of his physical.
Yes, there is good and there is bad connected with everything that is of human origin and under human control, and that Greek fraternity is no exception to that rule. Were every church member to live up to his obligation and opportunity, the world would be a better place to live in than it is and church membership would mean more to the individual and the community- than it does. The church is not to be judged by the shortcomings of some of its members, but by the united and uplifting influences it brings to bear upon its membership and the outside world in vital touch with it. That some fraternity members regard their obligations as such with indifference — that there are some black sheep in the fraternity fold — is no reason why reasonable people who desire to be just should indulge in indiscriminate, whole-sale denunciation of the college fraternities. These organizations are here, and they are here to stay, and the act of wisdom, on the part of all directly and indirectly concerned, is to emphasize their many excellencies and make persistent and successful effort to eliminate their objectionable features.