The History of Fraternities and Sororities in America

Where they started

The first colleges in North America came about during the colonial period of the United States beginning with Harvard in 1636. Other colleges created during the colonial period included William and Mary, Yale, Princeton, Pennsylvania, Columbia, Brown, Rutgers, and Dartmouth (Johnson, 1972). During this period, students fell under in loco parentis, a process where the colleges, acted on behalf of the parent and strictly supervised the student population (Brubacher & Rudy, 1958/1987). Students, by mandate, lived in dormitories, attended religious services, and suffered disciplinary actions from the college.

Students wishing to participate in social activities had to operate in secrecy. Some colleges went so far as to ban participation in social organizations. Wheaton College of Illinois, in 1866, had a rule upheld in court banning participation in social societies. The court stated that the college was given the power to discipline appropriately as long as they did not violate human law. This rule pushed many of the first student organizations to be secretive (Thomas, 1991). The first students coming together to form organizations, during the period of in loco parentis, were literary societies (Johnson, 1972). These literary societies existed as debate clubs and the club leaders set up competitions with other similar organizations (Brubacher & Rudy, 1958/1987). During this period, literary societies became influential, at their campuses, by financing library improvements and residential facilities.

The First Fraternities

Due to strict regulations on student activities and organizations, students created secret societies. Two of the most notable organizations were the Flat Hat Club and P.D.A. at the college of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. These organizations, founded in literary debate, lost their emphasis on literature and dove into heavy socialization. These first secret social societies sparked the interest of a philosophical society looking to expand its horizons. The philosophical society was founded on friendship, morality, and literature (Current, 1990). The new group was secretive and selective about its membership and practices (Brubacher & Rudy, 1958/1987).

The philosophical society previously mentioned formed in 1776, at the College of William and Mary, and became America’s first Greek letter fraternity (Baird, 1879/1991). The group, Societas Philosophae, changed to the Greek letter name Phi Beta Kappa Society in 1777. This was to hide the secret name and purpose of the organization. Phi Beta Kappa Society, in its first years created an initiation process, handshakes, secret identification processes, and an oath of allegiance (Current, 1990). These traditions and secrets are existent in most fraternal organizations today. In 1781, Phi Beta Kappa established chapters at Yale and Harvard. Later they started chapters in New Hampshire at Dartmouth in 1787. For thirty years, the first chapters operated independent of each other (Baird, 1879/1991). Phi Beta Kappa started as an honor society, which limited its membership to seniors and faculty.

The first three social fraternal organizations, open to all students, still in existence today began at Union College in New York. Beginning in 1825, the Kappa Alpha Society started as a literary and social group. These form the bridge from literary societies to today’s modern fraternities. The second group, Sigma Phi, was established in March of 1827. Sigma Phi was created to support a more intimate companionship than existing organizations at Union College. The founding principles stated members should reflect a good mind, lofty character and cordial manners (Sigma Phi History, n. d.). The third was Delta Phi started in November of 1827 (Baird, 1879/1991). Delta Phi was started, “to consolidate their interest and at the same time mutually benefit each other, to maintain high standing as students and gentlemen, and to foster cordial and fraternal interest” (p. III-42). In 1827, for the first time, three fraternities started and existed at the same institution. This is called the Union Triad and is the first semblance of a fraternal system as found on colleges today. By the beginning of the Civil War, 182 colleges had been established in the United States and 37 fraternities came to be and continue to exist today.

In 1909, 17 national fraternities came together for the first time to discuss, “mutual problems” (Baird, 1879/1991, p. I-26). A year later these fraternities met again and created an organization called the Interfraternity Conference based on the principle of, “one fraternity, one vote” (p. I-26). Another original standard was that its member organizations can only have fraternity chapters at, “accredited, four-year, degree granting institutions” (p. I-26). Now named the North-American Interfraternity Conference they represent 73 fraternities at over 800 campuses. They also boast over 350,000 undergraduate and alumni members (North-American, 2008). Their mission is, “to advocate the needs of its member fraternities through enrichment of the fraternity experience; advancement and growth of the fraternity community; and enhancement of the educational mission of the host institutions” (¶ 4).

Women’s Fraternities

As the United States came of age, its citizens battled bigotry, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism. This battle was also fought on university campuses and facilitated the creation of many fraternal organizations. In 1833, Oberlin College in Ohio opened and created coeducation. Oberlin was the first college to admit women and people of color (Brubacher & Rudy, 1958/1987). For the next thirty years, higher education for women was under debate. The debate stemmed from the question; if women are to be educated should they have separate institutions? During this period women’s colleges like Vassar 1865, Wellesley1875, Smith 1875, and Mawr 1885 opened their doors. Other colleges created separate annexes to educate women away from the men. This group included Harvard 1879, Columbia 1889, Tulane 1890 and Brown 1891.

Opponents of coeducation fought that it would have detrimental effects on the development of men and women both physically and psychologically. Fears were expressed that sexual tension would force the curriculum standards to be lowered. It was a common belief, in this era, that coeducation would advance immorality. From these arguments, many alumni and faculty of institutions felt coeducation would discredit their institution.

Supporters of coeducation fought that it would help members of the opposite sex understand each other better, in a more intellectual way. Another argument was, “coeducation was necessary so that all persons, irrespective of sex, would have the democratic right to be taught all branches of knowledge” (Brubacher & Rudy, 1958/1987, p. 67). By 1870, coeducation was winning the debate as coeducational institutions outnumbered separate women’s institutions. A helping hand for coeducation came from the Morrell Act of 1862. This act provided federal funds to allow state colleges to develop land grant colleges but did not clearly state a position on coeducation and opened the doors for discussion and change (Turk, 2004).

Many of the original women’s fraternities started to support the first women at their respective college. Clyde Johnson (1972), author of Fraternities in Our Colleges, states these early sorority pioneers demanded, “separate and equal fraternities to provide themselves with comparable social and other privileges, but independent and self-governing” (p. 58-59). The first secret societies for women are believed to have started in 1851 and 1852. These two societies, the Adelphean and Philomathean, started at the first all women’s college in the United States, Georgia Female College, or as it is now known, Wesleyan College of Macon Georgia. The Adelphean Society was created under the motto, “we live for each other,” and their purpose is to better themselves, “morally, mentally and socially” (Baird, 1879/1991, p. IV-5). Adelphean Society changed its name to Alpha Delta Pi in 1913. The Philomathean Society started as a literary society to help in the pursuit of an equal education like that offered to men. Philomathean Society, in 1904, changed its name to Phi Mu, Greek letters selected based on the group’s secret motto. In 1916, Phi Mu adopted the creed of love, honor and truth (Phi Mu: Our Purpose, n. d.).

The next women’s secret society, I.C. Sorosis, began in 1867 at Monmouth College in Illinois. It modeled itself after the men’s fraternities and quickly expanded to another campus in 1869 (Johnson, 1972). I.C. Sorosis aimed to provide, “strength and inspiration in closer bonds of friendship, assistance to colleges where its chapters might exist and development of philanthropic service (Baird, 1879/1991, p. IV-58). In 1888, I.C. Sorosis officially changed its name to Pi Beta Phi, Greek letters that reflect the group’s secret motto. Pi Beta Phi vowed to ensure equal status to the strongest men’s fraternity and fight the critique of female attack on men’s institutions.

In 1870, only 11,000 women, compared to 52,000 men, enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States. The first Greek letter women’s fraternity started this same year at Asbury College in Indiana, now known as DePauw University. According to Diana Turk (2004), author of Bound by a Mighty Vow, four women, “gathered together in a darkened room and initiated themselves into a secret society. Pledging lifelong vows of loyalty to one another and swearing to uphold a set of carefully outlined ideals” (p. 13). Two of the four founders were the first women to attend DePauw university in 1867 ( Wilson, 1956). Those two evaluated the other two for their first year to see how they handled academic life. The four women together started Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity, in 1870 to battle the resentment against coeducation and to aid and support each other (Turk, 2004). The idea of starting a fraternity came from founder Bettie Locke rejecting the request to wear a pin of a fraternity man. Her Father suggested that she start her own group. Kappa Alpha Theta was started to foster, as cited by Diana Turk, a “bond closer than that of common interest and womanhood,” also to “create a vehicle that would enable them to face collectively the rigors and challenges of charting a new path” (p. 20).

More women’s fraternities would start over the next few years at pioneering coeducational institutions (Baird, 1879/1991). In the same year as Kappa Alpha Theta 1870, Kappa Kappa Gamma would begin at Monmouth College in Illinois. Kappa Kappa Gamma was started under the principles of friendship, support, self-growth, respect for intellectual development, and positive ethical principles (Kappa Kappa Gamma, 2003). Delta Gamma began at the Lewis School in Oxford, Mississippi, 1873. Delta Gamma is based on the principles of personal integrity, personal responsibility and intellectual honesty (Kondracke, 2008).

Alpha Phi in 1872 and Gamma Phi Beta in 1874 started at Syracuse University, New York. Alpha Phi was created when a few of the founders asked all of the women at the university to come to a meeting about starting a fraternity. Twenty invitations went out and ten women showed up to create a society similar to the men’s groups (Baird, 1879/1991). Alpha Phi was created to promote sisterhood, cultivating leadership, encourage intellectual curiosity and advocate service (Alpha Phi Fraternity, 2008). The four Gamma Phi Beta founders created the group, “to develop the highest type of womanhood through education social life, and service to country and humanity” (Baird, 1879/1991, p. IV-41). Gamma Phi Beta like all of the original women’s organizations was actually a fraternity; the term sorority did not exist until 1882. Gamma Phi Beta created the word when a professor of one of its founder’s suggested that the word fraternity was too masculine. From that point forward, most women’s fraternal organizations used the term sorority (Turk, 2004).

The last three women’s fraternities to start before 1890 were Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta and Sigma Kappa (Baird, 1879/1991). Alpha Chi Omega started in 1885, at DePauw University, Indiana in the music college. The name was selected because the group believed it was starting the first, alpha, and last, omega fraternity in the music college. The chi represents the Greek word kai meaning and. Alpha Chi Omega was created for helpfulness and fellowship with a purpose of advancing the intellectual, social and moral culture of the members (Alpha Chi Omega, 2008). Delta Delta Delta, or Tri Delta, started at Boston College, Massachusetts in 1888. They started at a college with three other women’s fraternities already in existence: Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Phi and Delta Gamma. They began with the idea of starting a group that looked at inner quality rather than outer beauty (Delta Delta Delta, 2007). Tri Delta is based around friendship, womanly character, morality and support. Lastly, Sigma Kappa in 1874 was started at Colby College of Maine by the first five women ever to attend the College. Sigma Kappa’s purpose is, “to promote service, cultural development, spiritual standards, scholarship and intellectual life among its members” (Baird, 1879/1991, p. IV-62). This was the first sorority in the New England area.

The women’s fraternities previously mentioned are the first groups that realized the importance of working together. In May of 1902, they came together to create the Inter Sorority Council later renamed the National Panhellenic Conference (Turk, 2004). Currently they represent 26 women’s Greek letter societies at over 620 colleges and over 4 million members (National Panhellenic, n. d.). This council was started as an advocacy and support organization for its women’s fraternities. In 1915, they passed the Panhellenic Creed a document asking members, “to promote the best standards for education of the young women of America through loyal service to the chapter, college and community” (Johnson, 1972, p. 64). They also promote, within the creed, citizenship and human and community service.

Culture and Religion

After the civil war and into the twentieth century, the United States saw an emergence of anti-Semitic bigotry. Much of the bigotry came from the increasing number of Jewish immigrants in America. Between 1880 and 1920, the Jewish population in America rose from about 250,000 to over 3.5 million due to an influx of Eastern European immigrants (Coppa & Curran, 1976). This racism extended to colleges as literary societies and fraternity members chose to bar people of Jewish faith. A notable anti-Semitic incident occurred in 1877 when a judge barred a Jewish banker from registering as a guest of a New York hotel. The banker, Joseph Seligman, was friend to Abraham Lincoln and the incident made the newspapers. Two years later a prominent hotel chain announced it would not allow Jewish people to stay fearing that Jewish people would scare away high-end clients. By 1890, the anti-Semitism had changed from anger over the killing of Christ, to that of Jewish people being a lesser class of individuals (Dinnerstein, 1994). Jewish immigrants came to America as some of the poorest but many became financially affluent due to the labor skills they brought with them. This new financial prominence led many to become targets of bigotry.

Most of the first fraternities asked initiates to recognize an entity that created man as a part of initiation. It was not until Alpha Chi Rho, founded at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut 1895, that a fraternity had a membership requirement of practicing Christianity (Johnson, 1972). Many fraternity members began limiting participation by people of Jewish faith. The reaction to this was seen in 1895 and 1901 with the creation of Pi Lambda Phi and Delta Sigma Phi. Both fraternities started as nonsectarian as a protest against the exclusion of men of Jewish heritage (Brown, Parks, & Phillips, 2005). Later in 1898, Zeta Beta Tau was created by a group of students from various colleges in New York and was the first fraternity based around the Jewish faith. In 1924, a survey was taken by the North-American Interfraternity Conference to examine membership restrictions by fraternities. The study concluded that 12 percent of fraternities require Jewish beliefs and 22 percent require that members be White Christian males. By 1957, most organizations had removed stipulations regarding religious beliefs and race (Johnson, 1972, p. 39-40). Between 1895 and 1920, the majority of fraternities created were for Jewish students (Brown et al., 2005).

The membership restrictions based on religion and heritage set in motion the rise of culturally based fraternities and sororities. Universities like Cornell in Ithaca, New York, by 1916, had three Jewish, two Black, and one Chinese Greek letter organization. The same 1924 study showed that of the 62 organizations polled, 28 operated with a racial test in their selection procedures. The study included four Black Greek letter organizations and one Chinese (Johnson, 1972). Starting new groups was, in many cases, a reaction to established groups excluding men from membership that came from lesser-represented cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds (p. 42).

Black Greek Letter Organizations

Prior to the Civil War, only 28 Black Americans had received baccalaureate degrees from United States colleges (Roebuck & Murty, 1993). From 1826-1905 only 7,488 Black Americans had received degrees, most at the end of the century (Giddings, 1994/2002, p. 18). The first Black Greek letter organization, Alpha Kappa Nu, began in 1903 at Indiana University (Kimbrough, 2003). This organization existed for less than one year and shortly thereafter, in 1904, Sigma Pi Phi began. Sigma Pi Phi was created by professional African American men struggling to make a living. These men felt alienated from both white and other African American men, and Sigma Pi Phi was formed to get to know each other (Brown et al., 2005, p. 97-98). This is the first continuous Black Greek letter fraternity but was primarily for graduates of universities. Sigma Pi Phi was based around three pillars of wisdom, faith, and brotherhood.

The first multiyear undergraduate Black Greek letter fraternity, Gamma Phi, began in 1905 at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Gamma Phi can be found in the yearbooks for over three decades, then off and on until 1947 (Kimbrough, 2003). Another Black Greek letter fraternity is rumored to have existed. The Chicago Defender in 1905 wrote a story about Pi Gamma Omicron at Ohio State University. The college registrar at the time stated that no such organization registered (Wesley, 1929/1996).

In 1905 eight Black students at Cornell University, in New York, came together to gain fellowship and create a social studies club (Kimbrough, 2003). According to Charles H. Wesley (1929/1996), author of The History of Alpha Phi Alpha, Black students, “were cut off from the many opportunities for mutual helpfulness which comes to groups of students through personal acquaintance and close association” (p. 15). The students at Cornell came together for two reasons: first to create a literary society to participate in the collegiate activities of the time and secondly to create a fraternal organization similar to those already in existence. Less than a year later on October 30, 1906 the young men of the social studies club, at Cornell University, initiated themselves into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Wesley, 1929/1996). Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. is the first continuous undergraduate Black Greek letter fraternity.

The second fraternity, Kappa Alpha Nu, also started at a predominantly white institution, Indiana University in 1911 (Brown et al., 2005). This organization started in similar fashion to the first women’s fraternities. In 1911, only ten Black men attended Indiana University. These men came together, “to address the racial inequities and social isolation they faced at the predominantly white, Midwestern institution” (p.186). Kappa Alpha Nu formed under the, “tenants of Christian ideals and purpose of achievement” (Ross Jr., 2000). In 1914, the name was changed to Kappa Alpha Psi, possibly due the racist nickname, “Kappa Alpha Nig” (p. 48), given to the group by White Indiana University students. Acceptance was the first hurdle for all fraternities and sororities the second for Black Greek letter organizations at predominantly White institutions was discrimination.

In the early 1900s, Black students at Howard University, in the District of Columbia, did not have to fight racism, as most of the students were Black. Howard was a historically Black college. From 1866-1890 sixteen historically Black public colleges including Howard University in 1867, were started. Seventeen additional black colleges started due to the second Morrell Act of 1890. This bill required states to provide separate educational facilities for Black Americans or admit them to existing White universities. If they did not the state would risk losing federal money (Roebuck & Murty, 1993)

At Howard, similar restrictions on social activities like the White serving institutions existed. Not surprisingly, the second chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha began at Howard in 1907. This was the first fraternal organization on the campus and shortly thereafter Howard would see the creation of five new Black fraternal organizations. The first Black Greek letter sorority started in January of 1908 by nine women and called itself Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (Kimbrough, 2003). The name reflects the first letters of three Greek words of the organizations motto, “by culture and by merit” (Brown et al., 2005, p. 184). The colors selected, salmon pink and apple green, represent,” abundance of life, womanliness, fidelity, and love (p.185). These nine women consisted of the entire female population within the Howard Liberal Arts School (Giddings, 1994/2002). In February of 1909 another seven students joined the sorority and are included as founders by the sorority (Kimbrough, 2003).

Just as rival organization would begin opposing traditional Caucasian fraternities and sororities, the same would happen for Black Greek letter organization. These rivalries would begin for many reasons including, “differences in class, background, tastes and social status” (Brown et al., 2005, p. 189). Over the next eleven years, Howard University would see the start of two fraternities and two sororities. The first rival fraternity would be Omega Psi Phi in 1911. Omega Psi Phi’s name represents a Greek phrase meaning, “friendship is essential to the soul” (p. 190). The organization was formed under the principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift. The other rival fraternity to begin at Howard was Phi Beta Sigma in 1914. Phi Beta Sigma was founded under the principles of, “brotherhood, scholarship and service,” which is also reflected in their motto, “culture for service and service for humanity” (Baird, 1879/1991, p. III-169)

The sorority rivalries began at Howard University with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1913. In December of 1912, the undergraduate member of Alpha Kappa Alpha moved to change into Delta Sigma Theta for many reasons. First, they wished to change from a social to a more service and politically active group. Second, they wished to form a national organization, be on multiple campuses and have a role for graduate chapters. Third, they wanted to separate from the traditions they had that were similar to the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, like officer names. All but one undergraduate member became Delta Sigma Theta when the semester resumed in January. What began was a life long rivalry between the two organizations that once were sisters (Giddings, 1994/2002).

Officially, Delta Sigma Theta incorporated on February 13, 1913 with the purpose, “of maintaining a high standard of morality and scholarship among women generally” (Giddings, 1994/2002, p. 52). The young group centered on academic excellence, scholarship, support for the underserved, positive political activity, and service to the community (Delta Sigma Theta, 2005). The organization has since expanded its purpose and focuses its efforts around a five point programmatic thrust: economic development, educational development, international awareness and involvement, physical and mental health and political awareness and involvement (Delta Sigma Theta, 2005, ¶ 2).

The second and final rival sorority to begin at Howard was Zeta Phi Beta in 1920 (Baird, 1879/1991). This sorority started when a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, asked a women to start a sister organization. She found five more women and they started an organization based on the ideals of high academic standards, service on the campus and in the community, sisterhood, and promoting finer womanhood. It is also the first and only sorority started as a sister organization (Ross Jr., 2000). Sigma Gamma Rho another Black Greek letter sorority got its start at Butler University in Indiana under adverse times. Butler was not a Black serving institution and during the 1920’s thirty percent of the white male population in Indiana were members of the Ku Klux Klan. Sigma Gamma Rho persevered and in 1922 began with the motto, “Greater Service, Greater Progress” (Ross Jr., p.276). They also hold close the virtues of faith hope and love (Baird, 1879/1991).

Throughout the early part of the century, the eight national Black Greek letter organizations continued to grow and expand to other campuses. Collectively by 1930 Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and Kappa Alpha Psi had over 100 chapters (Kimbrough, 2003). The eight groups came together in 1930, at Howard University, to create a coordinating body for their chapters (Ross Jr., 2000). It was called the National Pan-Hellenic Council or NPHC and was found as an umbrella organization. The NPHC, “provides action strategies on matters of mutual concern and serves as the conduit through which these actions plans are put into effect” (Baird, 1879/1991, p. I-41). Local NPHC chapters are to be created when two or more member groups are at host locations. Today they boast over 900,000 members worldwide. The NPHC came about because the governing bodies for the traditional Caucasian Fraternities and sororities was centered around recruitment and social functions that only pertained to themselves (Kimbrough, 2003).

In 1996, Iota Phi Theta fraternity joined the NPHC to make, what is now known as, the Divine Nine Black Greek letter organizations (Baird, 1879/1991). Iota Phi Theta began in 1963 and grew to be a dominating force. Founded by non-traditional students that felt too old to go through an undergraduate process for membership. Instead, they found a fraternity based on scholarship, citizenship, leadership, fidelity and brotherhood. Their motto is, “Building a Tradition, Not Resting Upon One” (Ross Jr., 2000, p. 134). Kappa Alpha Psi and Iota Phi Theta are also members of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (Kimbrough, 2003).

Throughout the twentieth century, many other Black Greek letter organizations started and continue today. By 1980, over 50 groups had been in existence and many started at campuses that already hosted NPHC organizations (Kimbrough, 2003). New Black Greek letter organizations came about to express fraternally their ideas on Christianity, Afrocentrity or just individuality. Over 75 different Black Greek letter organizations have come to be, many are still around today.

Latino Greek Letter Organizations

For Spanish and Latin Americans, the landscape of young America was forever changing. In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo separated Mexico from the United States (Meier & Rivera, 1972). This was a symbolic separation originally, as Mexicans freely traveled back and forth from Mexico. Many came for labor jobs within the Southwestern United States. Another large wave of Mexicans immigrated to the United States during and after the 1910, Mexican Revolution. Many companies encouraged Mexicans to come during World War I to keep up with the military demand on products. After the war, the United States slipped into a recession, and a repatriation movement began. Companies began sending Mexicans back to Mexico in order to return jobs to Americans home from the war. In 1924, the Congress appropriated $1,000,000 to create a border patrol to control the flow of migration. This was the first attempt at border control. The congress also began passing restrictive legislation controlling the amount of immigrants from non-European countries.

During this period, Chicano, Latino, and Hispano students began attending colleges in the United States. Little has been written about Chicano, Latino, and Hispano higher education beginnings. The first known Latin American student organization, la Union Hispano Americana, came about in 1898 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. La Union Hispano Americana started as a cultural and intellectual society promoting Pan-Americanism allowing students from Latin America and Spain to be involved in student organizations (Phi Iota Alpha, n. d.). The second known society, Sociedad Hispano-Americana, began at Louisiana State University in 1904. Its creation was to help Spanish American students gain friendships and support at universities. Sociedad Hispano-Americana changed its name in 1911 to Sigma Iota, believed to be the first Latin based fraternity (Baird, 1879/1991).

A second Latino fraternity, Pi Delta Phi, started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1916. A third, Lambda Phi Alpha began in 1919 at the University of California at Berkeley. Realizing the existence of one another, in 1921 Lambda Phi Alpha, Pi Delta Phi, and la Union Hispano Americana merged to become Phi Lambda Alpha. This group used the constitution of Pi Delta Phi and the goals and mission of la Union Hispano Americana (Phi Iota Alpha, n. d.). Sigma Iota later merged with Phi Lambda Alpha to become Phi Iota Alpha in 1932 (Johnson, 1972). Phi Iota Alpha, after a brief hiatus from 1970 though 1985, restarted to be the oldest Latino fraternity in the United States. Phi Iota Alpha today supports its members’ intellectual development, cultural consciousness, personal growth, personal achievement and social awareness (Phi Iota Alpha, n. d.). Within their current mission, they continue to raise the consciousness and support of Pan-Americanism.

Evidence of other Latino or Latina fraternal organizations is not available until the 1970s about the same time as Phi Iota Alpha’s hiatus. The presence of Latinos in higher education from 1900-1970 was relatively small. Major change began during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson from his programs paired with the civil rights movement. In 1964 through 1965, bills passed that attempted to address inequality and discrimination in American society. These bills included the Civil Rights, Voting, Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Higher Education Act. The Higher Education Act was set forth to help developing institutions. The bill did not specify the type of institutions and the bills authors intended support for historically Black serving institutions. By not specifying which colleges, it was extended to Latino serving institutions (MacDonald, Botti, & Clark L, 2007). To further the push towards equality the government also introduced affirmative action programs, “designed to ensure that colleges and universities gave equal treatment to women and members of minority groups in every phase of their operations” (Brubacher & Rudy, 1958/1987, p. 236). This has changed the higher education landscape of today in that Latinos, now the largest minority ethnic group, are the fastest growing college enrollment group. Their representation in 1976 was less then four percent of the students enrolled in higher education and in 2000 almost 10 percent. This figure represented a 25% increase of enrollment for Latin American students. Students over the same timeframe who were White only increased by 2%, Black 15% and Asian Pacific Islander 18 % (Santiago & Brown, 2005).

From the 1970s through today, many Latina and Latino fraternities and sororities started on colleges and universities. In 1975, Keane University in New Jersey offered bilingual education allowing Spanish-speaking students to attain a degree in their native language (Lambda Theta Alpha, n. d.). A group of 17 women came together to form Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority. Lambda Theta Alpha was founded to provide and practice social, political and community service activities. In 1979, they incorporated as an academic sorority with scholarly excellence with in their mission along with providing sisterhood based on unity love and respect. Also in December of 1975, Lambda Theta Phi Fraternity began at Keane College by a group of men attempting to unite the Latino community (Diaz & Feliciano A, n. d.). The fraternity is based on the ideals of academic excellence brotherhood, leadership, Latino unity and service. The founder wanted a fraternity because the university administration had experience working with fraternities and would understand them.

From 1975 through 2003, as cited by Dr. Walter Kimbrough, over 75 different Latin fraternal organizations started on campuses across the United States (Kimbrough, 2003). A few of the men’s Latino fraternities, including Lambda Theta Phi, joined the North-American Interfraternity Conference. On many campuses, Latin and Asian fraternities and sororities were forced to join umbrella councils that may not have been concerned with their interests. In 1980, the first attempt at an umbrella group, the Concilio Nacional de Hermandades Latinas or CNHL, started as an attempt to support Latin based groups on predominately-Caucasian campuses. By 1995, the organization had amassed 40 organizations, 15 national the rest local. The group, focused in the East and Midwest, was unable to serve as a voice for Latin fraternal organizations (Bauer, 2005). In 1997, another umbrella group began. The National Association of Latino Fraternal Organization, or NALFO, set out to unite groups across America and in 2001 convinced CNHL to merge under the NALFO name. NALFO consists of 24 organizations that support its mission to, “promote and foster positive interfraternal relations, communication, and development of all Latino Fraternal organizations through mutual respect, leadership, honesty, professionalism and education” (¶ 4).

Asian Greek Letter Organizations

From 1882-1952 the United States placed strict regulations on immigration of people of Asian-Pacific Islander ancestry. Starting in 1882, the United States passed the Exclusion Act. This act was the first law stopping immigration under the auspice of protecting labor jobs. The law prohibited immigration of anyone from China for twenty years. According to Andrew Gyory (1998) author of Closing the Gate, the law permitted racism “at the highest level of government, it helped legitimize racist action at every level of society” (p. 257). The Exclusion Act received two extensions and in 1898, immigration of Chinese to the United States became prohibited for the next fifty years. In 1924, the immigration policies originally created for the exclusion of Chinese immigrants became the policies for all non-Europeans. The Immigration Act of 1924 created quotas for most nations and banned immigration for the Chinese and Japanese until 1943 (Bennett, 1963).

Not surprising during this time of open legislative racism, the United States would have the creation of Asian culturally based fraternities and sororities. Ten years after the creation of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first fraternity based around Chinese heritage, Rho Psi, was created at Cornell University, in 1916 (Johnson, 1972). The Chinese name for Rho Psi is Soo-Yoo, which means pure and genuine friendship. The purpose of Rho Psi is “to promote and perpetuate friendship among members, to develop congeniality and brotherhood in the fraternal life, and to cultivate the spirit of cooperation and self-sacrifice” ( Yao, n. d., ¶ 2).

The next three Asian based organizations began on the west coast shortly after the passing of the Immigration Act of 1924. Started by Chinese American men, Pi Alpha Phi Fraternity came to be at the University of California at Berkeley in 1926 (Asian Greek History, 2007). This foundation of Pi Alpha Phi is for the, “bonds of friendship, mutual experience, academic excellence, and Asian Awareness” (Pi Alpha Phi -, 2007, ¶ 2). In 1929, Japanese American women created Chi Alpha Delta at the University of California at Los Angeles. These women created the organization to compete for the scholarships usually given to fraternity men. At University of California at Berkeley in 1930, Sigma Omicron Pi, or Sisters of Pedagogy, formed to support female students of Chinese American ancestry wishing to become teachers. This was the last Asian American culturally based organization to start before World War II (National Asian, 2007).

From World War II through the 1980s only a handful of organizations emerged that continued on through today. In 1980, alpha Kappa Delta Phi sorority began at the University of California at Berkley and in five years expanded to 14 colleges. This sorority was started as an Asian interest sorority to, “promote sisterhood, scholarship, leadership, and Asian-American awareness in the University and in the community, while encouraging the expression of the individual” (Le, 2007, ¶ 1). The 1990s started 35 new Asian Based Greek letter organizations, and by 2007, there were over 65 Asian American fraternities and sororities with more than 420 college chapters.

Twelve Asian Greek letter organizations came together in 2004 and 2005 to increase voter registration of Asian Americans and then to raise money for tsunami relief (National Asian, 2007). The success of these service projects led to the creation of the National Asian Greek Council in 2005. In 2006, the name was changed to the National Asian Pacific Islander American Panhellenic Association or NAPA. Currently NAPA has nine member organizations and they are developing the method to guide and unite the Asian Greek letter community.

Multicultural Greek Letter Organizations

Pi Lambda Phi, in 1895, began as the first nonsectarian fraternity accepting men of any race or religion. As previously discussed, this was done to counter anti-Semitic practices of fraternities of that era. Pi Lambda Phi still stands as an organization that accepts men of good character regardless of race or religion (Pi Lambda Phi, 2005). Almost 100 years later organizations took this idea a step further and infused appreciation for culture and diversity. In January of 2009, the GoogleDirectory listed over 30 multicultural Greek letter organizations in existence (Google Directory, 2008b). The oldest, Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, started in 1981 at Rutgers in New Jersey (Mu Sigma Upsilon, 2005). The group's motto, "Mujeres Siempre Unidas" or Women Always United is reflected in their purpose to support and unify women, celebrate diversity, and empower the community.

Lambda Sigma Gamma Sorority, Inc. in 1986 was created on the California State University, Sacramento campus (Lambda Sigma Gamma, n. d.). Lambda Sigma Gamma started because their founders felt a sorority did not exist, “that met the needs of women from minority backgrounds” (¶ 2). Since 1986, they have grown to over 21 chapters based around multiculturalism, self-improvement, academic achievement, civic responsibility and leadership. California State University, Sacramento’s men also came forward in 1986 to create Epsilon Sigma Rho Fraternity, a multicultural Greek letter organization. This fraternity is based on diversity, academic achievement, brotherhood, community service and a devotion to cultural awareness (Epsilon Sigma Rho, 2004).

An umbrella organization for multicultural Greek letter groups was started in 1998 and has 13 member organizations (National, 2003). The National Multicultural Greek Council embarked to unite multicultural Greek letter organizations under one entity similar to the other umbrella groups. These groups also serve in an advisory capacity for its member organizations.

Emerging Greek Letter Organizations

Student from the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual community are also coming together to form fraternities and sororities. Again, in January of 2009, the Google Directory listed nine organizations in this category (Google Directory, 2008a). The nine organizations are all variations of fraternities and sororities previously mentioned with an emphasis on inclusion of individuals from different sexual orientations. Variations include Black, Latin, cultural appreciation, multiculturalism and general social groups. The oldest group Delta Lambda Phi Fraternity, with 21 current chapters, started in 1987 as a fraternity that would not discriminate on sexual orientation (Delta Lambda Phi, 2007).

Currently there are at least seven Native American fraternities and sororities at 22 campuses in the United States (Jensen & Ballinger, 2008). These organizations connect their cultural values and traditions to their fraternities and sororities. These organizations are also formed around academic achievement, community service, and cultural promotion. The first of these organizations was created in 1994 at Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Alpha Pi Omega, n. d.). Alpha Pi Omega Sorority, now with over 300 members, was created for sisterhood, community service, academic excellence, self- empowerment and a commitment to their tribes.


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