Beta poem sparks discussion

by Jason Casell | 8/14/95 5:00am

Brothers of Beta Theta Pi fraternity met last night with several women to discuss an allegedly racially and sexually offensive poem that was read aloud at one of the fraternity's weekly meetings and was written by a Beta brother.

According to women who had seen the poem, it contained derogatory comments about women, specifically Native American women and referred to specific Dartmouth women, including one by name.

At a meeting with Sigma Delta sisters, female members of Native Americans at Dartmouth and several other women at Kappa Chi Kappa fraternity, the Beta brothers privately apologized for the incident.

Beta Summer President Tom Macejko '97 last night confirmed the apology, but would not confirm the existence of the poem. Macekjo said inappropriate comments were made at the fraternity's meeting.

A Sigma Delta sister who did not wish to be identified said a copy of the poem was left in her room by a Beta brother.

"I was really shocked -- I think most people were," said the Sigma Delt sister. "Some of the brothers were offended also."

Debbie Carbonaro '97, who said a friend had read a copy of the poem to her, recited several lines of the poem from memory.

"Two lines I remember almost exactly -- 'I followed her down the Trail of Tears/I can't believe I've had only three beers,'" she said. "I think it is appalling to equate cultural genocide with beers."

Carbonaro also said the poem included several lines which alluded to rape, referring to a woman who was being harassed but "got away with only a kiss."

Macejko said the comments are not typical of what occurs at Beta's meetings.

"It was an isolated incident involving a single brother's comments and was never condoned in any way by the house," Macejko wrote in an electronic-mail message to The Dartmouth. "The brother's words were seen as distasteful and offensive."

Macejko wrote that the brothers have discussed the issue at the meeting and expressed optimism that the situation will help improve gender relations on campus.

"Beta, in conjunction with this group of women, is going to hold discussions and write articles in various campus publications to discuss and improve the way men and women interact in the Greek system and on the campus as a whole," Macejko wrote. "We realize the importance of this issue and are pleased that we are in a position to be involved in the improvement of male and female interaction on campus."

The Sigma Delt sister who did not wish to be identified said she knows the person who wrote the poem.

"He was really drunk and doesn't want this to reflect badly on Beta or the Greek system," she said.

Cat Weiss '97, a Sigma Delt sister who attended last night's meeting, said "our long-term plan was to start this discussion. Just blaming this frat when we know there are other problems isn't going to move this forward."

Weiss said she did not attend the meeting in her capacity as a Sigma Delt member.

Kim Bal '97, another Sigma Delta sister who also said she was not acting on behalf of her sorority, said the discussion was worthwhile.

"I felt it was productive," she said. "It shed new light on the situation and gave me hope."

Bal, who is also a member of NAD, has seen a copy of the poem, and said she "was shocked at the content."