"To The Student Body"
The Crimson White
March 29, 1928
Acting from entirely disinterested motives, we desire to call your attention to a situation which we regard as a serious menace not only to the student government itself but to the social and academic life of the University.
(1) That there exists or has existed a secret national political fraternity on the campus. That this institution is called Theta Nu Epsilon.
(2) That the President of the Student Body is guilty of malfeasance in office through active participation in the organization of this fraternity and his admitted election to its presidency.
These charges are, of course, dependent upon each other and they can be enlarged. In order for the student to understand fully this serious danger to democratic self-government at the University, we desire to give in detail other accusations against this organization.
It is admitted by the President of the Student Body that Theta Nu Epsilon was organized before the elections of 1927, whereby he was elected to his present high position in the affairs of the University; that he was elected president of this organization at the beginning of the current scholastic year; that this organization had a fraternity pen, membership card, initiation fee and a ritual from national headquarters; that (in the President's own words) its object was "to help the students of the University select the best candidate for each office that is filled by student election"; and that he had planned to destroy the organization after being graduated from the University.
In addition to these direct admissions from the President there are other and possibly graver charges made by others who were either connected with Theta Nu Epsilon or who were directly aware of its activities.
Chief among these is the accusation that the organization member formed a political machine which had as its purpose the election of its chosen candidate for each office, this to be accomplished by the understanding of each member to support and work for the entire slate. It is also declared by reliable testimony which can be adduced that in one instance members of this fraternity attempted to force an officer of the student body who was a member of their order to appoint only one man from their organization and a weak man outside the organization as candidates to succeed said student government officer. By this plan, the appointive office-which in this instance carries a profitable financial return-would be taken completely out of the hands of the student body. It is further charged that this organization was accustomed to meet regularly in the room of the President of the Student Body; and that in most instances members were taken into the organization without complete knowledge of its purposes and methods and that they were held by the bond of their word to carry out its aims after they were admitted. One of the shrewd devices upon which this organization functions is that a member questioned as to his membership was privileged by one of its principles to be suspended at that moment from the order in order to justify his denial and at the next moment to be reinstated.
The President has stated that this organization no longer exists and that he disbanded it when its existence became generally known on the campus. This act seems to amount to an admission that somewhere in its operation were principles and practices which would not bear the close scrutiny of the qualified voters of the University Student Body.
We regard the matter as too serious, however, to be allowed to rest. Lacking executive direction, we therefore constitute ourselves a committee and formally make demand upon all candidates for the approaching election to declare themselves in the next issue of the Crimson-White, stating whether they have ever had any connection with this organization, and to disclose their sentiments in regard to said organization. This statement is to be unevasive and unequivocal.
Believing further that this organization and some of the things it has promulgated to be unfair and subversive of the best interests of the students, we call upon all members or former members to give all aid in their power to this committee in its attempt to expose and eliminate such vicious and unfair political practices from this University, and ask that such information be signed and mailed to the Chairman at the University postoffice.
We further direct that a copy of this open letter be submitted to the editor of the Crimson White with the request that it be published on the front page of the forthcoming in as conspicuous a position as possible.
William J. Cabaniss, Chairman.
Pat McArthur, Hugh R. Dowling, Harry Holder, Committee.
Whether a man wins or loses does not amount to so much. Anybody can be a good winner, but it takes a man to be a good loser. A man may be successful, even without accomplishing that which he desires most. But when one is so envious of another's victory that, after he has been defeated, he tries to justify his defeat by belittling the one who defeated him, and crowning himself a martyr, then it is best that that man was defeated.
I have never denied belonging to Theta Nu Epsilon. The purpose of the organization was to have banquets and meetings, so that there might be made stronger bonds of friendship existing between the members, and to assist the University in any manner possible. There were more than one candidate in the organization. There was no oath to support each candidate and no lining up. Each candidate in the organization state positively that if any member did not believe him the best qualified he did not expect the vote of that member, and the entire membership took the same attitude, with the exception of not more than two men, whose ideals were not as high as the ideals of the other members.
Every member had complete knowledge of its ideals and principles before accepting membership. The ritual was the same as that used by an organization to which two of my detractors (the "Committee") belong. The pins were the same, and have been used by both organizations, at the discretion of the members.
It was my idea to have the existence of the organization become known in the near future. It was composed of the most prominent men on the campus. I am glad to have been associated with them.
If any member believed a man outside of the organization to be better qualified than candidates within the organization, then he was at liberty to vote and give support according to the dictates of his conscience. I believed early this year that Hugh Dowling was best qualified for the presidency of the student body, and when Pat McArthur asked my support I told him that if Hugh should run I would help him. Last year, Dowling and I were political rivals, but personal friends.
It is not "malfeasance" to belong to a secret organization. Regarding the allegation concerning the "privilege of resigning membership momentarily":--that was not a principle or practice of the organization, and if any member denied membership that is a thing entirely chargeable to that member personally. If Mr. Dowling or Mr. Cabaniss were to deny that they are members of certain fraternities, that would cast no reflection on the fraternities.
Regarding the statement to the effect that the organization tried to coerce one of its members who is a student officer into appointing a strong member with a weak opponent:--that charge is based upon the ideas of the two members whose standards were not high. The fact that the student officer in question, as well as the remainder of the membership were directly opposed to any such alleged "coercion" shows that the organization was composed of a high type of men.
Since I have been in University politics, I have been on one side or the other. Last year, I was supporting Mr. McArthur against Mr. Etheridge, even tho I was a candidate for an office. My reason for supporting Mr. McArthur was simply that I felt him better qualified than Mr. Cabaniss' man. That should not be held against my political record.
There have been secret organizations in the past; there are at present; there will be in the future. Are all the minutes of ALL organizations open to inspection by the public?
Hoping that the best qualified candidates may win in the coming elections, and trusting that the losers will be strong enough to accept defeat manfully, I remain,
President of the Student Body.