Women in the Fraternity (Part 2)

by Dave Justin, First Printed in the Fall of 2001 edition of the Podium, KKΨ |

For Part 1 of this Story, Click Here
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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four-part series chronicling the history of women in Kappa Kappa Psi; part 1 appeared in the spring 2001 issue.

The 1973 National Convention

Brothers, we must be at UCONN in ’73, for things of great importance to the fraternity will be discussed and voted.

Gordon E. Maroney, III,

National Member-at-Large

The PODIUM, Spring 1973

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #0099FF;”]T[/dropcap]he passage of Title IX threatened to redefine the most basic requirement for membership for all-male honor societies such as Kappa Kappa Psi by allowing women to join.  The issue was predominant on the minds of the Grand Council as they prepared for the 1973 National Convention at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. The council strongly encouraged attendance so that all voices could be heard and so that this issue could be addressed.

“To sit by the band hall and hope this shall pass from us is foolish thinking,” Maroney continued in his PODIUM letter. “We must meet, discuss all aspects affecting us and decide what must be done now.”

As the chair of the National Student Advisory Committee, he invited all brothers in attendance at the National Convention to attend the meetings of the committee and to express their feelings and observations about the issue of allowing women in the fraternity. Constitutionally, the committee was chaired by the National Member-at-Large, now known as the National Vice President for Student

Affairs, and consisted of the district presidents. Other members of the fraternity were allowed to sit in on this committee, but were not usually encouraged to do so.

National Executive Secretary Robert Rubin also addressed the issue in his PODIUM letter. He asked very direct questions that he hoped would be answered at UCONN.

“What policy must we adopt to meet the requirements of [Title IX]?” he asked. “How can we also meet the needs of those who have already challenged our current governing document on this basis?…Is there really a need for two separate societies based on sexist selectivity within one collegiate band program? Would not one coed society serve as well?”

When the convention finally began, Grand President Richard “Doc” Worthington addressed the issue in his official report.

“A big challenge to the fraternity during the past biennium, at this meeting of the Grand Chapter, and in the future will be the [Education Amendments],” he said. “It has caused the ‘Rutgers’ incident in which a chapter was suspended because of ignoring the National Constitution and initiating women into their chapter in violation of this constitution. If women are to become a part of Kappa Kappa Psi, let it be done in an orderly manner with open discussion at a Grand Chapter meeting and not in open defiance to the National Constitution.”

He went on to give some options that would make the fraternity compliant with Title IX. Among those suggestions was the idea of merging Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma into a single “unisex” organization.

Richard Alder, a Life Member from the Nu chapter at the University of Michigan served as the chair of the jurisdiction committee at the convention.

“There was no buzz on merger in 1973,” he recalled when asked about the possibility of a merger in Storrs. “The Rutgers Incident was an anomaly that I think many chapters just preferred to ignore – chapter violated rules, chapter suspended, end of discussion in many people’s minds. If you’re not prepared to break down the gender barrier on membership, then you’re nowhere near thinking merger.”

However, Alder and his jurisdiction committee did discuss the possibility of changing the National Constitution.  The idea was to propose an amendment that would take out the “male” reference out of the membership requirements.

“I wanted to push the idea, and found the committee not totally sold on the idea,” Alder said. “J. Lee [Burke]’s suggestion was that the committee could propose an amendment ‘without prejudice’ which would put it before the membership for a vote without a recommendation either for or against from the committee.”

Burke, the third Grand President, was the Fraternity’s parliamentarian for life. He constantly advised and coached the jurisdiction and was more knowledgeable about the National Constitution than anyone in the Fraternity.

The committee accepted this compromise on the amendment proposal. The proposed amendment would read delete section 7.02 of the national constitution, which stated, “All members of the Fraternity shall be of the male sex.”

Prior to the jurisdiction committee report, Maroney presented the report of the National Student Advisory

Committee. Their recommendation on the subject was not a shock to the all-male membership.

Section VI, part 2 of the advisory committee report stated, “It is recommended that no action be made on the part of Kappa Kappa Psi [or] its component parts, to change the present Constitution in any manner in regard to the stipulation that members be of the male sex, and that merger with Tau Beta Sigma not be considered at this time.”

When Alder presented the jurisdiction report and read the proposal to section 7.02, the delegation sat in shocked silence. Finally, one member asked, “What does this mean?”

Alder responded that any member of the band in good standing may be considered for membership. There was little discussion on the amendment and less support as the amendment was defeated by over 75 percent of the voting body.

A moment later, Section 7.02 was amended by the delegation to read, “All active, alumni, inactive, and life members of the Fraternity be of the male sex.”

With this wording, the door was now open to constitutionally accept women into the Fraternity as honorary members. But the possibility of allowing women in as active members was closed.

The National Response

Many chapters in the country began to feel the pressure of Title IX as their school administrations began to express their concerns about their lack of female members. Some chapters, such as the Alpha Chapter at Oklahoma State University, the Iota Chapter at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Delta Omicron Chapter at the University of Connecticut, were in danger of being forced to leave their university if they did not comply.

At the 1975 National Convention in Houston, Grand President Thomas Tyra made the issue of Title IX an important part of the convention.

He wrote in his report, “We need to consider the implications of the Federal Government’s Title IX Guidelines to the Federal Education Act which prohibits discrimination by sex in any honorary organization on a college campus which receives Federal funds.”

The Jurisdiction Committee, chaired by Mike Radice of the Epsilon Xi chapter at Miami University, made the recommendation that a committee be formed, comprised of an equal number of members of Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma members to investigate the laws of Oklahoma in regards to corporate merger and to report their findings at the 1977 National Convention. However, due to the events that would take place at the 1977 National Convention, that report would never be read.

The National Student Advisory Committee, under the leadership of Glenn Anderson, National Member-at-Large, made many recommendations to help comply with Title IX.  They recommended that all references to gender be removed from the national constitution; that Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma be restructured so that both organizations would have identical fee structures, national offices, and hierarchy; and that strong ties between joint chapters be encouraged.

But the hope for a single-sex organization was still in their minds.

They requested that the newly appointed National Executive Secretary, W. Frank Evans, investigate the lobbying efforts being organized to counter the Title IX guidelines. If the efforts seemed to be working, Evans was to establish the fraternity as a participant in that group.

However, in the Winter 1977 issue of The PODIUM, Evans addressed the issue of a hearing with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

“Hopes for obtaining such a hearing have been completely extinguished, and it has become imperative that the National Constitution be altered to delete all mention of specific sex,” he said in the article. “Chapters who have experienced Title IX problems during the current year can testify to the fact that they will not be allowed to operate on campus next fall if definite action is not taken. The altering of our National Constitution will not be the complete solution to the Title IX problem, and the lasting effects which will result from this action will need to be seriously considered.”

In preparation for the 1977 National Convention at the University of California at Los Angeles, Grand President Melbern Nixon wrote to J. Lee Burke on July 5, 1977, and asked for his help in dealing with two issues.

“It appears now that we will have two quite controversial subjects with which to deal,” he wrote in the letter. “One, of course, is the matter of redistricting. The other is the much more ‘sticky’ subject of merger. There are those who feel quite strongly on both sides of the issue.”

On the opening day of the convention, the delegates were told that there would be a special joint meeting of the Fraternity and the Sorority on the morning of the second day to discuss the subject of merger.

The special meeting was held with speakers to present pro- and con- arguments before the joint delegation. Speaking in favor of merger was Scott Donaldson from the Eta Beta Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi at Virginia Polytechnic and State University. Speaking against merger was Brenda Joyce from the Psi Chapter of Tau Beta Sigma at the University of Arkansas and Michael Leckhum from the Delta Upsilon Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi at Eastern Michigan University.

The Nu Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi and the Lambda chapter of Tau Beta Sigma from the University of Michigan were approached to speak on behalf of merger, but they refused. After the 1973 National Convention, the chapter at Michigan had begun discussing and promoting merger to anyone who would listen. From 1973 to 1977, they tried to gain support for the idea, but eventually grew to realize that merger wasn’t the way to go.

“Our refusal to speak for or against in 1977 was due to our chapters’ growth to the concept of ‘fusion’ – chapters working together for the common good of the band program in whatever form was most appropriate for them,” Rich Alder explains today. “There was simply too much diversity in the country to dictate one way for all.”

The Michigan chapters also realized that merger would mean the end of one of the two organizations, or possible both.

A formal vote on merger was taken by secret ballot when the delegations split and went their separate ways. Both organizations voted overwhelmingly against merger. The Kappa Kappa Psi vote was 211 against and 9 for. The Tau Beta Sigma vote was 104 against and 4 for. The possibility of merger was officially denied.

In the days that followed, the Fraternity officially removed all gender references from the constitution by unanimous vote, finally making the national constitution compliant with the Education Amendments of 1972. Women were now constitutionally allowed to become active members of Kappa Kappa Psi in full and regular standing.

…to be continued.

Author’s note: This article was originally going to feature a section on the Iron Arrow Honor Society court cases that reinforced the jurisdiction of Title IX over honorary organizations, but resources and time were not available. Special thanks to Rich Alder, Ken Corbett, Scott Stowell, Deb Eakins, Mike McMurtrey, and the rest of the National Headquarters staff for their help on this project.

About the Author:

David Justin was initiated into the Epsilon Kappa Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi at Angelo State University before transferring to the Delta Sigma Chapter at the University of Texas at Arlington.  He earned a Bachelor’s Degree is Journalism and lives in the Dallas area where he was born. 

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