As soon as Tuesday night’s Bloomberg News/Washington Post debate at Dartmouth College wrapped up, Rick Perry headed across the prestigious Ivy League campus for a speaking appointment at a local fraternity. The Texas governor was reportedly in an upbeat mood, explaining that “debates are not my strong suit” and offering up a history lesson on the American Revolution—even if he got a few dates wrong.
Perry’s choice of post-debate venue was the Beta Alpha Omega house, which he picked instead of joining his fellow candidates at Dartmouth’s Leede Arena. Why did he choose the frat house? Nobody’s quite sure—including a spokeswoman for Perry, who told The Daily Beast she was “not aware” of how the decision came about. (The university did not return requests for comment on the matter.) For a man who’s been getting shellacked for his association with a controversial hunting camp, you’d think Perry’s advance team would take special care to keep him from sticky spots. But his choice of venue Tuesday night was a frat house that had been kicked off campus for its own bad behavior.
Dating back to 1991, the Dartmouth Beta fraternity has been kicked off campus, reprimanded, and condemned frequently in the student newspaper, which ultimately argued for the frat’s permanent removal from campus in 1996. The group has been involved in “abducting and tormenting” a member of another fraternity, suspended for hazing, and publicly shamed for calling another frat member a “chink faggot” during a scuffle. After the latest of those incidents, The Dartmouth student newspaper published an editorial arguing that Beta had “warped notions of brotherhood” and that the fraternity had “no place in the Dartmouth community.” The administration agreed, deactivating the fraternity for the foreseeable future.
But a group of alumni convinced Dartmouth’s administration to let the fraternity back on campus in 2007—albeit under a probationary status and without recognition from Beta’s National Chapter. And earlier this year, Dartmouth—acting on the recommendation of the Inter-Fraternity Council—signed off on a plan to reorganize the fraternity, putting them in the clear.
David Spalding, the chief of staff for Dartmouth’s president, tells The Daily Beast that Beta’s history at Dartmouth was not a bright spot for the school—but that it’s not fair to judge the current fraternity by the actions of its elders. “Governor Perry is speaking in a very different house and in front of a completely different group of students than existed 15 years ago,” Spalding said. But some at Dartmouth say the fraternity still has shades of its former identity. One student who is a member of another fraternity told The Daily Beast that the Betas work to maintain a “Southern, good ol’ boy vibe.” A separate student confirmed that people still talk about Beta having the same reputation and being known around campus as the “religious, conservative, Southern fraternity.” The student added that he was “not surprised” when they heard which fraternity would be hosting the Texas governor.
Of course, maybe some good could come from Perry’s appearance—at least when it comes from earning the love of young conservatives. Beta is also home to the conservative rap duo The Young Cons, who describe themselves as “conservative activists” and have earned the praise of media figures such as Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Malkin, and Megyn Kelly, among others. When reached this week, cofounder of the group David Rufful—whose stage name is Serious C—acknowledged that the Betas are known for their politically conservative membership but stressed that “all different viewpoints” can be found among the brothers.
Just take a look at their raps.
There’s no conservative mind as conservative as mine.
Too many Michael Moores, not enough Mark Steyns
I don’t worship trees, I don’t bow enemies
I hate media awfuls and ACORN brothels.
“I’m not sure of the reasons why Beta would have been banned in the past,” Rufful tells The Daily Beast, “but I’m sure none of the reasons exist today.”
Research assistance was provided by Emily Atkin, Matthew DeLuca, Kelly Knaub, and Fausto Giovanny Pinto