With the formation
of the National Council of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa
in 1883 the 107 year-old order created a central authority with exclusive
power to issue charters. On September 5, 1886, at its next triennial
meeting in Saratoga Springs, N. Y., the National Council of the United
Chapters authorized establishment of a chapter at Dickinson.
Three members of PBK, Lahman F. Bower, Wesleyan,
1879; Aaron Rittenhouse, Wesleyan, 1861; and Henry C. Whiting, Union 1867,
were designated to organize the chapter; all of them then held staff connections
with the College. Bower was at that time headmaster of the preparatory school;
Rittenhouse and Whiting were on the college faculty.
Here, as at the other two institutions
where new chapters were authorized action to organize was deferred
until April 1887. Dickinson's charter members met April 13th. This
preceded similar steps at Lafayette by a margin of two days and at
Rochester by five days. Although the margin was close, Dickinson
fortuitously became not only the Alpha of Pennsylvania but also the
holder of the first charter issued by the United Chapters. Throughout
its history the Dickinson chapter has felt that its primacy conferred
distinction and an obligation for leadership.
the first chapter meeting, with Professor Whiting presiding, the
three charter member selected all
of their collegiate colleagues (seven) and William K. Dare '83, who,
like Bower, was at the preparatory school, to membership. Henry M.
Harman, professor of Greek, oldest member of the staff, and something
of a conservative, declined membership. On April 19 and 23, the other
electees were initiated, a constitution and by-laws adopted, and
a committee to secure a commencement speaker chosen. The first officers
were Professor Whiting, president; Prof. Charles F. Himes, vice-president; and
Mr. Bower, secretary.
The original constitutional provisions
governing qualifications and restrictions on membership read:
1. Graduates of the College
of years previous to 1887 and of high standing in their class, not
exceeding one-fourth of any class, and men of eminence in literature,
science, or professional attainments shall be eligible to membership.
2. Members from the graduating
class, not exceeding one third of the class pursuing a four year
course, and from the one-third of that number having the highest
standing in any of the four year courses of study for a degree shall
formulas, in June the chapter elected eight undergraduates in cursu
alumni. The students and most of the honorary and alumnus members
were initiated at once, using the form of initiation received by
the Union College chapter in 1817. The new members pledged that
they would "approve themselves worthy members by encouraging Friendship,
Morality and Literature."
In its early years this chapter,
like recently established chapters on other campuses, elected numerous
honorary and alumnus members. The rationale was to provide a working
base of members, recognize persons who had not had an opportunity
to qualify for election , in cursu, and have a membership roll somewhat
more numerically comparable to those of the older chapters.
During the first decade, 1887-1896,
21 were elected to honorary membership (41 percent of the total of
all such elections) and 69 alumnus members (a full 50 percent of
all such elections). Although their numbers declined somewhat during
the second decade, both categories were generously used. Those elections
account for 25.5 percent of honorary elections and 23.5 percent of
alumnus elections. Collectively 66.6 percent of honorary elections
and an even more substantial 74.3 percent of alumnus elections occurred
between 1887 and 1906.
With the prestige of Phi Beta Kappa
nationally rising, pressure to secure the coveted key apparently mounted,
and Pennsylvania Alpha responded on its own terms. In 1902 a minute
concerning honorary members was entered "exhorting members to construe
the clause providing for membership other than graduates with great
conservatism and in strict accordance with the language of the constitution." Inspection
of the record of honorary elections shows a marked decline commencing
at that time. It rendered less urgent the adoption in 1910 of a numerical
cap of three alumnus elections per year. The new rule also provided
that nominations for honorary and alumnus memberships be reviewed and
reported by a committee before consideration at the annual meeting.
Soon thereafter the rules were further strengthened by requiring concurrence
of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at an honorary nominee's undergraduate
institution, if such a chapter existed.
of faculty colleagues have swelled the ranks of both honorary and alumnus
to 1900 college faculty regularly were elected to membership when
they joined the staff. Exceptions to this include Lyman J.
Muchmore, the first physical culture appointee, whose election was
delayed for several years, and persons who were presumed to be in
temporary positions. Collectively 19.6 percent of all honorary electees
and 11 percent of alumni elected by the chapter have been faculty.
frequency of all alumnus elections declined by the turn of the century
for several reasons. First,
the initial desire to create a viable chapter had been satisfied.
Second, for those graduating in 1887 and thereafter, in cursu election
had been available; and it was more difficult to justify alumni elections.
Third, as chapter historians of the 1930s noted, the United Chapters
was urging on all its locals caution concerning both categories.
Alpha's agreement is evident in the declining frequency of such elections.
Yet, although seldom exercised
in the post World War II years, the options were retained in a 1972
revision of the constitution and by-laws. That redaction permitted
two negative votes to block an alumnus election and a single negative
to prevent an honorary election. Since this constitution contained
provisions which eliminated the black ball in in cursu elections,
the provisions regarding negative ballots in honorary and alumnus
elections reflect intentional conservatism regarding those membership
categories. Current limitations further restrict honorary elections
to two per biennium while the maximum for alumnus elections is two
per year and not more than four per triennium.
Incidence of Membership by Decades,
Male In Cursu
Female In Cursu
Total In Cursu
Numbers elected by decades reflect
both election criteria and the changing size of graduating classes.
Although by virtue of its charter the chapter
has autonomy in setting criteria for in cursu elections, its practices have
closely mirrored norms recommended or required by the United Chapters for more
recently created locals. During the first four years one-third of each graduating
class was elected to membership. But in 1891 the upper limit was changed to
one-fourth, thus voluntarily complying with the 1889 guideline of the United
Chapters. In 1891, too, the election of students in cursu became a stated prerogative
of the faculty component of the chapter, and so it remained for 80-plus years.
Increases in the class standings required for eligibility successively set
limits of one-fifth in 1902 and one-seventh in 1906.
In 1934 the chapter set the limit
at 10 percent, with an additional discretionary 2 percent in years
found to be exceptional. Since that date, the 10 percent norm has
prevailed, and the formula for exceptional years has been increased,
but only to 2.5 percent. This is more conservative than the national's
permissible five percent for exceptional years. Once brought into
conformity, standards have been remarkably constant and have been
adapted with grace and equity to changes in grading systems, shifts
in institutional size, increases in the complexity of academic programs,
and frequency of student enrollment in off-campus programs.
Women were admitted to Dickinson
in 1884, and the chapter at its second election found that two had
qualified for consideration. Following precedents of other chapters,
which had been accepted in substance by the United Chapters, the
women candidates were elected without recorded dissent or discussion
of the precedents for such action. Almost two decades later, when
what appears to have been Dickinson's first black graduate qualified
for PBK, he too was elected without hesitation.
Yet, despite these liberal measures
and the refusal in 1909 to adopt sex-based quotas noted below, there
is conflicting evidence concerning the chapter's attitude toward
women. In 1900 under the sponsorship of the United Chapters a PBK
Handbook and Address Catalog was published. There rosters of chapters
at other coeducational institutions routinely list female as well
as male members. But the Dickinson roster contains no women, even
though at that time 11 had been elected. It also omits 17 males elected
in cursu while listing 39 undergraduate electees as well as 45 honorary
or alumnus members of the Chapter. The reason for omission of any
names is unclear.
On another front, close inspection
of the Roster of Members provided in this handbook will show no women
elected honorary or alumnus members. Because the minutes are silent
on nominations which failed, it cannot be established whether any
women were considered but failed of election in these categories.
Before rushing to judgment about intentional or inadvertent sex discrimination,
however, we must include in our evidence other actions of the chapter.
Between 1905 and 1909 both the absolute numbers of women elected
and the proportion of women among the electees rose. In 1908 six
women and only two men were chosen while in 1909 seven women and
four men were elected. Having reason to anticipate continuing elections
of a higher proportion of women than of men, the newly created Student
Senate (then an instrument speaking for males exclusively) petitioned
the College faculty requesting that there be separate quotas for
males and females set, so that the same proportion of each sex would
be elected. The faculty referred the request to the chapter but warned
the senate that the PBK constitution would govern. The chapter rejected
the concept by adopting Professor McIntire's motion:
Whereas the request presented is
incompatible with the purposes, the genius and the constitution of
the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the Alpha chapter finds it impossible
to comply with the request.
The next elections picked seven
women and 11 men, obviously far from the gender ratio in the predominantly
male graduating class. Decades later, at a time of heightened women's
consciousness, another kind of question arose about discrimination
in chapter practices. For simplicity and reflecting general preferences,
the secretaries had regularly ordered one size of key for men and
a smaller size for women. But in 1973 discovery of this difference
led to demands that initiates be able to choose whatever size and
quality of key they desired and could finance. Administrative convenience
quickly gave way to principle.
Residency requirements have reflected both
the national's expectations and Dickinson's evolving institutional practices.
Initially only students in four-year programs were considered. But, when transfer
students began to qualify for graduation, it became necessary to develop residency
requirements. These were intended to guarantee that students whose entire academic
careers had been at Dickinson would be considered on a basis at least as advantageous,
but not more advantageous, as that of transfer students or of Dickinson students
whose records included periods of study off-campus.
A Chinese student, resident only
in academic 1936-37, was graduated with Latin honors and PBK. This
instance led the chapter to state a residency requirement in 1938.
The by-law set a three-year norm but explicitly provided in exceptional
cases for consideration by a special committee. If an exception was
recommended, however, the by-law directed that the committee consider
the records of all candidates for the same period of time.
In 1947, 1948 and 1949 foreign
students (three from New Zealand and one each from Germany, China,
Holland and Scandinavia) won graduation honors and PBK keys for a
single academic year's work. This time, however, delegates to the
1950 Triennial returned with warnings that the United Chapters objected
to elections based on less than two years' work, that the model constitution
carried a two-year stipulation, and that continuation of one-year
elections would be criticized by other chapters. Thereafter a two-year
residency prevailed, while three or more years was the norm. The
move toward conformity not only avoided controversy but also possibly
reflects some change in the quality of performance by foreign students
in the 50s as well as an end to exceptions by the College to a two-year
residency requirement for degree candidates.
beginning in the 50s and mounting as the 60s and 70s proceeded, substantially
diversity of student records being considered and complicated the
establishment of a comparable basis for evaluation of students. First,
students now frequently participated in off-campus options such as
the Washington Semester, Dickinson's Bologna program, and other foreign
study opportunities. Records reporting these valuable learning
experiences deserved consideration but varied widely as to format
and method of recording qualitative evaluations.
adoption of Pass/Fail and Credit/No Credit options and the deferred
assignment of grades
for honors and independent research projects compounded the interpretive
challenges which the chapter faced. In search of answers to the dilemmas
these innovations posed as well as to the phenomenon commonly denominated
''grade inflation," the chapter in 1972 created a Committee on Scholarship,
i.e. on in cursu elections. Its members included three elected faculty
and the secretary ex officio.
This committee was charged with
assembling and reviewing records of eligible students, nominating
candidates, and alerting electors to significant aspects of individual
records. At each election, the committee advises the chapter on the
number of candidates to be considered, identifies the cumulative
average which applies (an average may be proposed which is higher
than that mandated in the by-laws), and reports how far such elections
go to fill the 10 percent or 12.5 percent quota.
Committee recommended by-law changes
established a minimum number of graded courses necessary to qualify
for election at the end of the junior year or for mid-senior year
elections. These became effective in 1972. In order to facilitate
consideration of each student record, the committee, with cooperation
of the registrar, has since 1972 used an overhead projector to present
the Dickinson transcript, supplemented by records of work at other
Timely chapter responses to changing
conditions, plus a tendency of the College to move more conservatively
in matters of grading systems and graduation requirements, have minimized
the disruptive consequences of the academic ferment and rapidly changing
systems of academic evaluation endemic to the past two decades.
the constitutional revisions of 1972 and the creation of the Committee
on Scholarship, the chapter
was represented at a regional conference in New York City on "problems
of election standards in this time of changing symbolism in college
records." Delegates to the Triennial Council later that year heard
President Bentley Glass's warnings about obsolescence of electoral
criteria. Heeding these external warnings, as well as local concerns
to increase equity in elections and for responsible participation
by undergraduates in elections and other business, changes chronicled
previously or set forth hereafter were implemented. Two considerations
in electoral practices have received attention and generated some
degree of internal differences.
First, practices in interpreting
transfer credits have varied from year to year or even from meeting
to meeting depending on who constituted the quorum. At one extreme
has been the view that external transcripts should become a basis
for recomputing the grade point average so that all students would
be considered on the same quantum of academic work whether at Dickinson
or elsewhere. At the other extreme the position has been taken that
qualitative comparability cannot be established and that transcripts,
at best, provide only impressionistic insights as to the components
of individual programs taken elsewhere.
some reservations in evaluating the quality of work in off-campus
programs and for transfer students,
the chapter has gone beyond College practices in its search for comparability
in records of students. Although exempted by its 19th century foundations
from the United Chapters' "Stipulations Concerning Eligibility for
Membership in cursu," Pennsylvania Alpha acknowledges a moral obligation
to take cognizance of the criteria which the guidelines enjoin concerning "breadth
consistent with liberal education."
the explicit requirements that candidates have demonstrated proficiency
in foreign language
and in math had been considered as satisfied by Dickinson's distribution
requirements concerning language and work in the natural sciences.
The Nisbet Scholars Program in 1978, however, exempted participating
scholars from the stated requirements and substituted for them a
self-designed "liberal arts program of study." Although many Nisbets'
programs reveal prima facie evidence of work in language and literature
and in the social and natural sciences, other students seem to concentrate
in one or two areas and may not have experienced at the college level
courses in the sciences and/or foreign languages. In considering
such cases the chapter for nearly a decade has faced numerous dilemmas.
Beginning in 1980 letters have
been solicited from potential candidates rationalizing their programs
as compared with criteria set forth by the United Chapters and Dickinson's
distribution requirements. The Scholarship Committee utilizes information
there presented in interpreting the academic record of the particular
Nisbet candidate. On occasion it reads the entire letter to the elective
body. But logistics, communications difficulties, non response by
students within time deadlines, or ambiguities in their responses
can prevent access to desired information. Also divergence of views
among electors, as to what the range of acceptable alternatives may
be, creates difficulties.
Scrutiny and discussion of Nisbet
Scholar Records has also caused members to raise questions concerning
the records of non-Nisbets whose work in distribution courses has
been only in introductory courses, whose course work seems overly
specialized, or whose program in the major seems to lack depth. After
a decade of effort, dissatisfaction with election practices remains
and engenders a steady stream of suggested remedies.
The role of students in chapter
affairs, which was minimal for 85 years, expanded significantly in
the 1970s. Because the chapter initially adopted the practice of
considering students for election only at the time of their graduation,
there was not during the formative years an undergraduate component
of the chapter in residence. Consequently, at Dickinson, as at other
chapters where this condition prevailed, the immediate chapter for
elections consisted only of faculty. Only at the annual meeting were
returning members or new electees involved in the conduct of business
and then briefly.
Although election of students on
the basis of junior standing was investigated early in the 1890s,
the proposal was not perfected then. In the early 1920s, it was recognized
that mid senior year elections would provide an undergraduate component
on the campus and that other chapters elected a portion of their
class at this point. Such elections began in 1924. By that time faculty
conduct of elections, and incidentally of much other chapter business,
was so well established as not to be questioned. Even the introduction
of elections based on junior standing in 1957 failed to bring the
possibility of student participation elections of undergraduates
under active discussion.
The absence of such discussion
is surprising. Only two years previously, the faculty component had
successfully ended exclusion from the annual meeting of undergraduates,
elected and initiated previously, until after recommendations of
the committee on honorary and alumnus memberships had been heard
and voting completed on any nominees. The faculty then argued that
such students were full members and that their exclusion contravened
the by-laws. Yet so strongly entrenched was local practice that,
even during the wave of student rights activism of the late 60s and
early 70s, the exclusive prerogative of the faculty component to
elect members in cursu, a right dating from 1891, was not challenged.
Change on this front came only
in 1972 under President Frederick Ferre, and then so subtly as to
leave only inferential evidence in chapter records of the motives
involved. In a constitutional revision of that year, power to conduct
business, other than in the annual meeting was placed in the hands
of resident members. They were defined as the associate members of
the chapter and the student members in residence at the time of such
meetings. The quorum was modified and a provision included that for
purposes of election one half of the associate members must be present.
Students now were eligible to participate in elections.
Two factors explain the non controversial
extension of the right to elect. First, student roles on college
committees and presence with voice but not vote in the faculty meeting
were well established by this time. Second, with rising grade point
averages, projections of grade trends revealed that the chapter would
soon be unable to elect all undergraduates who met the long standing
minimum average for election. Concerned about increasing difficulty
in achieving equity between students in elections, many faculty members
concluded that openness was the best means of demonstrating good
faith and collegiality.
Student participation on the Committee
on Scholarship was considered and even briefly required by the 1972
motion reactivating the committee. But no junior elect was appointed
to the committee in the fall of 1972. The by-law revision adopted
in 1973 provides for election of three faculty and makes no reference
to a student component for the committee. Even so, student participation
in elections affords undergraduate members a role far beyond that
granted by most chapters.
From the early years to the present
the Alpha chapter has attempted to secure an undergraduate chapter
presence on campus. This motivated the examination of junior year
elections in the 1890s. It was a major consideration in the move
in the 1920s to elect at mid-senior year as well as in the addition
of junior elections in 1958. Although residency requirements and
stipulations requiring specific numbers of courses carrying letter
grades developed in the 1960s and 1970s, care was taken to elect
viable numbers at both the junior and mid-senior year points so that
the PBK undergraduate contingent would continue.
President Bruce Andrews (1979-1981)
instituted by-law changes which substantially increased the proportion
of the class elected at mid-senior year for two reasons. Most important
was the desire to give a high proportion of electees an opportunity
to participate in activities of the chapter. Second, an accelerated
academic calendar made elections, in the short time between computation
of the grades of graduating seniors and commencement, difficult to
accomplish. Here there was a trade-off between maintenance of the
distinction conferred by mid-year election and an expanded undergraduate
member campus presence. The option was for the latter.
The presence and role of the Dickinson
chapter has been expressed not merely through recognition of individual
accomplishment but by continuing contributions to the intellectual
tone and amenities of the academic community. In the early years
it joined the literary societies in selecting a commencement orator.
As early as 1898 it was contributing substantially to the book fund
of the library and for 20 years after the establishment of the Library
Guild in 1903 it provided $25 or more annually toward the guild's
Following establishment of The
American Scholar in 1932, the chapter for many years paid for the
library's subscription to the journal. From the 1950s until recently,
junior and mid senior year electees received complimentary or partly
subsidized subscriptions for the year of their election. Before and
after World War II, the chapter provided awards for academic achievement
by fraternity, sorority, and independent student groups.
the chapter assumed the role of sponsor for what had previously been
an Inter fraternity Council
project, it set as a condition that independent student groups as
well as chapters of national fraternities and sororities should be
eligible. Initially the award consisted of a loving cup which went
to the house having the highest academic average for the year. In
1957 the cup was replaced by plaques. Plaques were also offered
to the pledge components of the men's and women's social groups which
had the highest average for the semester.
mid-senior year elections began in 1924, a new dimension giving prominence
to scholarly endeavors
evolved. For several years the president of the College and the faculty
had held an annual reception recognizing students who had achieved
an "A" average. Shortly, the mid-year elections and the broader scholar
recognitions were articulated in the "A" Dinner. From 1926
to 1970, "A'' Dinners honored newly initiated wearers of the key
and the group of students most likely to become candidates for election.
The principal speaker at the black tie affair, often himself a PBK
whose presence had been secured through initiatives of the chapter,
spoke on a scholarly topic, thus presenting a role model and encouragement
to intellectual endeavor.
gracious occasion ultimately fell victim to rising costs, increased
size of faculty and student
body, and the number of students qualifying for invitation. In recent
years a dinner honoring mid-year initiates and relying on a local
speaker has revived in modified form the long standing "A" Dinner
Alpha of Pennsylvania has sought
means to enhance the quality of the academic experience of the college
community. In the 20s, 30s, and post-war 40s, it took initiatives
to arrange dinner meetings with counterpart chapters at Franklin
and Marshall and Gettysburg. In some years not merely PBKs but all
faculty of the three schools were invited. In the early decades of
this century, successive chairmen of a committee termed the Committee
on Scholarship Promotion regularly reported to the annual meeting
evidence of scholarly activity. Their reports comment on lecturers
brought in, changes in grading systems, recognition received by faculty,
etc. These reports indicate that the chapter regarded, as part of
its function, the promotion of scholarship and education of alumni
as to positive developments at the College.
one or more instances the chapter provided small scholarship
stipends to needy students entering graduate
programs. In the 70s, it contributed $100 to the Humanities Fund.
Chapter sponsorship of open forums in which faculty returning
from sabbatical leaves reported on their work and experiences provided
a part of the precedent from which the more broadly based Wednesday
noon discussions grew. Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars
regularly appear on those programs in one of their public appearances.
initiatives have been less productive. Efforts to revive the
literary societies in 1949 and, in 1981, to resume publication
of the John
Dickinson Review came to naught.
The PBK Visiting Scholar Program
is the most successful continuing contribution of the chapter to
campus intellectual exchange. In 29 of the 31 years during which
the program has existed, Visiting Scholars have been scheduled for
Dickinson. Planned and financially supported cooperatively by the
national, the local chapter, and academic departments or administrative
officers of the College, these three-day residences by distinguished
scholars have provided public lectures, classroom experiences, and
opportunities for personal interaction with the visitors, and often
with their spouses as well.
The list of scholars and their
public lecture topics, q.v., witness to the range of interests addressed
and give some hint of the spectrum of departments and programs which
have joined in utilizing the talents of the Visiting Scholars. The
1986 Visiting Scholar, Professor Wolfgang, was himself elected as
an undergraduate to membership in Alpha chapter.
of the Alpha of Pennsylvania to the United Chapters have reflected
a prevailing liberal arts orientation
and, as earlier historians noted, a generally conservative stance.
Since its founding, the chapter has ordinarily sent one or more delegates
to the Triennial Council meetings. It has also participated in regional
or district meetings, but with less regularity. Applications
for new chapters have been closely scrutinized. The resulting directions
to delegates and communications to the national show a disposition
to keep Phi Beta Kappa an elite and liberal arts organization.
to delegates in 1949 are representative. They assert as a matter
of principle that Dickinson's
representatives should be "reluctant to admit colleges that are not
distinctly liberal in character, to be averse to too rapid an extension
of membership, and to be doubtful regarding admission of institutions
which have been newly established."
The chapter prided itself on its
conservatism in these matters and was vigilant in defense of chapter
prerogatives. It rejected proposals of 1931 enhancing the role of
the United Chapters in granting charters and argued for retention
of a decisive voice by academic chapters. Severalexamples suggest
this attitude. In 1926 Dickinson objected to a ruling by the national
that votes favoring creation of a new chapter carried over from one
biennium to the next.
decade later it endorsed a minority report on by-laws revision which
opposed transforming the Triennial
Council into "a convention of members." The minority report agreed
to extend voice but not vote to delegates to the council from the
alumni associations. Earlier theDickinson chapter protested methods
used to nominate new chapters and objected when the national secretary
had reported to prospective chapters the reservations expressed by
chapters which were critical of a nomination. In 1943 the chapter
supported proposals to expand therole of the districts in setting
policies and in selection of new chapters.
On other issues contacts with the
national ran the gamut. Early in the 20s, the chapter dragged its
feet but later supported a campaign to raise funds for PBK Endowment.
By the end of that campaign, Dickinson's 71 pledges represented a
proportion of participation similar to that achieved nationally.
In 1930 the first chapter historian
was elected to cooperate in preparation of a national history of
Phi Beta Kappa. This project roused the chapter to assemble and bind
its own minutes; the two volumes then gathered by the secretary have
provided essential documentation for our knowledge of the early history
of this chapter.
there was embarrassment when the United Chapters reported concern
that Dickinson groups were
using keys quite similar in design to PBK's. On investigation the
key of the Dramatic Club was found to be sufficiently distinctive
but that of the Glee Club was regarded as infringing. The Glee Club
agreed to modify its insignia. Perhaps with some senseof vindication,
the chapter in the following year observed that the key of the Intercollegiate
Newspaper Association was a close copy. The annual meeting, therefore,
directed its officers to contact the United Chapters in order to "abate
the nuisance." The problem again surfaced four years later concerning
a key used at the Dickinson School of Law.
Prof. Herbert Wing, Jr., long a
chapter stalwart and recurrently a delegate to Triennial Councils,
held posts of some significance in the national. In the 1950s, he
chaired a committee formed to broaden the readership of The American
Scholar; others on the committee were university men. For more than
a decade he anonymously underwrote the subscriptionsto The American
Scholar which junior and mid-senior electees received ostensibly
as a gift of the chapter. Also at this time he was a member of a
national committee on chapter practices which was preparing a manual
for chapter officers. In 1953 he became president of the Atlantic
States District and remained active in its affairs until he retired
The modern history of chapter management
and problems is in contrast to that of the first half century. The
earlier period was characterized by remarkable continuity in the chapter
offices. The 1939 history pointed out that for the first 50 years
only 15 persons held the four major offices. Though considerable
continuity prevailed well into the post World War II period, inspection
of the list of officers, especially in the last 15 years, shows a sharply
different current pattern. Officers still tend to come from faculty
who have had relatively long connection with the chapter; but they
seldom have been undergraduate members of this chapter, nor do they
serve extended terms as officers.
A number of considerations account
for decreases in continuity in management. Staff mobility has been
greater, the faculty pool is numerically larger, constitutional provisions
impose maximum terms of service for most offices, and the faculty
is less hierarchically oriented. Consequently there is greater openness
in the conduct of chapter affairs. Simultaneously, greater familiarity
with the variety of current practices at other chapters has encouraged
alteration of procedures and a willingness to try innovations.
The extent to which forces external
to Dickinson have influenced campus practices seems to have risen
in the last quarter century. This holds for both the College and
the chapter. Although the pace of change has quickened, key functions
of the chapter remain. Alpha of Pennsylvania has an unchanging commitment
to recognition of academic excellence and to procedural equity in
consideration of the records of students who have pursued divergent
educational programs. As it enters a second century of activity,
the chapter gives continuing priority to service to the scholarly
community, the promotion of scholarly endeavors, and the maintenance
of an effective campus presence.
Robert Coleman Professor Emeritus