1894: Court upholds fraternity ban

Orvis Roberts vs. W. M. Beardshear et al.

Members of the senior class and many of the alumni can readily recall the situation and feeling of the students at the beginning of the spring term 1891. It will be remembered that in the interests of good will and harmony, President Beardshear, authorized by the board of trustees and the faculty, announced a rule forbidding any student of the college to thereafter join a college Greek letter fraternity.

As the successful enforcement of this rule eventually meant an eradication of the fraternities, the members were at once aroused in search of some remedy. They entertained some doubts as to the legal standing of such a rule and in the fall of 1892, in order to test the matter in court, Mr. Roberts, then a member of the present senior class, joined the [Delta Tau Delta] and publicly announced the fact. For this violation of the rule he was promptly expelled by the president, whereupon he petitioned Judge Conrad to issue a writ of mandamus, commanding the president to reinstate him. In answer to the petition the president set out the continuous disturbance and ill feeling between the fraternity and anti-fraternity factions which led to the making of the rule, and its violation by Mr. Roberts.

To this answer Mr. Roberts’ attorney in the technical term demurred, claiming it was insufficient in law; that neither the president, faculty nor board had a right to make such a rule; that it was unjust and unreasonable; and insisting that the writ should issue at once.

The matter was argued in January, 1893, and the demurrer was overruled, the court holding that if all the statements in the answer could be proven, the president was justified in his action and that Mr. Roberts would be without relief. Without appealing from the decision of the judge it was decided to try the case upon its merits—i.e., to determine whether the facts and circumstances were such as claimed in the answer.

The case came up for hearing before Judge Balliett last January. Jury trial was waived and the testimony was heard by the judge. A number of the professors and several of the alumni were called as witnesses. The court decided the facts and circumstances were such as to warrant and justify the making of the rule and refused to issue the writ.

An appeal will probably be taken from the decision of the lower court, in which case the final result will probably not be known for a year and a half. There is always some uncertainty about the result of a law suit; but we understand that many fraternity sympathizers who have watched the proceedings are of an opinion that the judgment of the lower court will be affirmed.

The I.A.C. Student, 12 March 1894

Issue: 12 March 1894

President William Chamberlain supported the fraternities, which were incredibly unpopular among most students. In the end, it was the big reason he failed to have the support of the students, and it lead to his resignation in 1890. When William Beardshear became president, he forbid fraternities and sororities on campus. The case stated in the story about a student being expelled for joining a fraternity went to the Iowa Supreme Court, which sided with Iowa State. In 1904, with a new college president and a need for student housing, the ban was lifted.

Some history can be found here.


Greek Community Re-establishing at Iowa State

Court upholds fraternity ban (1894)
Fraternities (re)approved (1904)

ORIGINAL TWO: Delta Tau Delta (1911) | Pi Beta Phi (1906)

NATIONAL FRATERNITIES: Acacia (1909) | Alpha Tau Omega (1908) | Beta Theta Pi (1905) | Kappa Sigma (1909) | Phi Gamma Delta (1907) | Phi Sigma Kappa (1911) | Sigma Alpha Epsilon (1905) | Sigma Nu (1904) | Theta Xi (1909)

NATIONAL SORORITIES: Alpha Delta Pi (1911)

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