Today, March 27, marks the anniversary of Black Thursday at Iowa Wesleyan College when I was there. It's not quite up there with the American one or Bastille Day, but in our circles it was pretty profound. Here is what happened.
This was a period of decreasing school enrollment. Couple that with the fraternities and sororities all having houses off campus, the school began looking for ways to minimize costs and maximize school housing.
The previous year the school had mandated all Greek organization students back to campus housing. They gave the three fraternities Hershey Hall, an empty old relic of a building that probably should have been torn down decades before. The Phi Delts got floor 2, the Phi Tau's floor 3, and the Sig Eps floor 4. The first floor of the building was a lounge, mailroom, storage and other non-livable area.
The first part of the revolution was moving back onto campus. We all threatened to transfer elsewhere and many of us actually followed through with the documentation. For my part I threatened to move to Rollins College in Orlando, Florida and actually applied. I was accepted and I recall the call from Marj asking me what I wanted to do. I had already put in two years, loved my classes, liked my fraternity and friends, so while tempting, I decided to stay at IWC.
When the dust had settled and we'd moved into Hershey, I don't think anyone ever transferred. But we applauded ourselves with shooting a shot over the administration bow. As it turned out, we all had a better time at Hershey than at the house because we not only had fun with ourselves but had fun with the other frats as well.
Burning IWC President Louis Hasselmayer in effigy. That is a Halloween bucket with his name on it sitting on a garbage can in the hallway.
Bob Temple, a Phi Tau, in my room modeling a "Save Hershey Hall" T-Shirt.
The plot thickens when it was announced shortly before the end of school year that the IWC administration had decided to close Hershey Hall and send all fraternity students into the school men's dorm, McKibbin Hall. This move would virtually destroy Greek life at the school. The Phi Delts would be the last fraternity standing, and they closed in 2009.
With only a couple of months left before graduation, none of us really cared. College is a long haul, and we were gearing up for life in the real world and in a mere 60 days our time here would be finished anyway.
For a few days we learned how to make a statement, albeit a tempest in a teapot. Lessons learned in the field of civil disobedience. Hershey Hall is still on the campus as an all-purpose building: it houses art classes among others. For a couple years "back in the day" it housed some fraternities and me. My nickname back then was "Hymie" and many residents started calling this place Hymie Hall. It was a fun time and helped develop our sense of the world. It's when we started to see how things really worked, and how to mount a meaningful but peaceful protest. Can't beat that kind of education.