Greek organizations have been a part of university life since 1776 and the founding of the first American fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa, at the College of William and Mary. There are different types of Greek-letter organizations in higher education, including honorary and professional fraternities, but what this exhibit covers is what has come to be known as the social fraternity. The purpose of this exhibit is to give Greek members a window into the history of how their predecessors have brought them to where they are today and to give non-Greeks an idea of what it is and was like to be part of a fraternal organization.
The History section, broken up into twenty-year intervals, gives a brief narrative of the major issues that shaped the Greek system at UC, the growth of the Greeks, and their place within the wider community at the University from the organization of the first fraternity in 1882 to today. Under Chapters are lists of all known chapters that have existed at UC, including both local organizations and chapters of national fraternities, with their dates of operation, genealogies, and brief notes, as well as a timeline showing the growth (and sometimes decline) of the Greek system at the turn of each decade. These lists have been compiled using the Cincinnatian, rush handbooks, student newspapers, and student directories. Greek Houses highlight the next section with photographs of some of the houses through history, information about the houses, and general information about Greek lodging. The Gallery includes photographs of pledging, rushing, Greek Week, and dances, as well as some candids found in the Cincinnatian. Finally, the Bibliography lists the sources that are available in the Archives and Rare Books Library that can be used to research this topic further.
The information contained in this exhibit was compiled mainly using sources held by the Archives and Rare Books Library (with some legwork by the author to capture photographs of the current houses). Fraternities and sororities are inherently secret societies and understandably tend to guard their records, preferring to hang on to them or transfer them to their national offices. ARB holds only two small collections from UC Greek organizations, a collection of early minutes and financial records of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and a collection of financials and newsletters from Trianon sorority. If any fraternity or sorority wishes to have their historical materials considered for placement in the University Archives, please contact the Archives and Rare Books Library.
Glossary of Greek Terms
This glossary has been compiled from UC Rush publications and may help to understand some of the unique lingo related to Greek life.
Active - an initiated member of a Greek organization
Alumna - a sorority woman who has graduated
Alumnus - a fraternity member that has graduated
Bid - a formal invitation to join a Greek organization.
Chapter - the Greek name applied to the local group of a national fraternity or sorority
Chapter Limitation - The maximum number of members in a sorority (from 1976)
Direct Legacy - A girl whose grandmother, mother or sister has been a member of a particular sorority
Formal Rush - The period set aside during the first weeks of classes for rush
Fraternity - A Greek-letter men's organization. This word also refers to woman's groups and sororities in the general sense.
Greek - the name applied to all sorority and fraternity members
Initiate - a person who has recently become an active member
Initiation - act of becoming an active member
Interfraternity Council - governing body of fraternities
National - the central organization of a given group
Open Rush - An information Rush period for those Greek groups who have not taken the quota during Formal Rush or who have not reached limitation. (from 1965, also known as Open Bidding in 1976)
Panhellenic Association - the central governing body of sororities. The word Panhellenic is derived from two words, "pan" meaning "all" and "hellenic" meaning "Greeks."
Philanthropy - a charitable organization sponsored by Greeks
Pin - The badge worn by fully initiated members
Pledge - An accepted probationary member of a group. A member who has not been initiated.
Pledgeship - period of time between acceptance of a bid and the actual initiation
Quota - The number of girls a sorority may pledge during one year (from 1965)
Recolonization - Panhellenic Sororities working together to help a small sorority with its Rush program. (A good example of Greeks working together to help each other.)
Rush - the act of entertaining prospective members
Rushee - a student who is being invited to rushing functions (also known as Rushman)