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Greek Life_History of Fraternities and Sororities

Greek Life_History of Fraternities and Sororities

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Greek life: History of fraternities and sororities
November 12, 2004
By Meg Waltner

At first glance, Greek life at Stanford seems a shadow of its past. While once all 36 houses on the Row
belonged to Greeks, now only 25 percent of them house sororities and fraternities. Still, the Greek
system remains a significant part of social life at Stanford.

History of Greek Life
\u201c[Fraternities and sororities] are clearly a part of our history,\u201d said Nanci Howe, associate dean of students
and Director of Student activities.
Demand for a housed Greek system emerged in the early days of the University, when students were not
guaranteed four years of on-campus housing.

The first Greek organization at Stanford was the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta. Theta rented a house in
Mayfield, a town that no longer exists. Many of the other original Greek organizations rented their houses
off-campus, although some did have on-campus houses.

By 1898 there were five sororities on campus, and by 1916 there were 24 fraternities. By then, twice as
many students lived in sororities and fraternities than in non-Greek on-campus housing.

Fraternities grew much faster than sororities, partly because there were fewer women. Jane Stanford had a
\u201c500\u201d rule, which allowed no more than 500 women at Stanford at one time. The \u201c500\u201d rule was in
response to criticism the University received for being heavily female when it first opened. Since the
University was founded in the name of Jane Stanford\u2019s son, she did not want it to be referred to as the
Vassar of the West and sought to limit female enrollment.

In the late 1910s and early 1920s, the University criticized members of fraternities and sororities because of their low academic performance. Then-University President Ray Wilbur threatened to ban fraternities and sororities unless their members improved academically.

\u201cPresident Wilbur really cracked down on sororities and fraternities and made them toe the line
academically,\u201d said Maggie Kimball, an archivist for Stanford library special collections.
The students improved and were allowed to keep their houses.

In 1933 the \u201c500\u201d rule was revised in response to increased enrollment. The number of women on campus grew. With the influx of women came an increased demand for sororities, but the number of sororities did not change. This led to a schism in the female student body. According to Kimball, the female student body was plagued by excessive competition and serious disunity.

Behavioral issues were also a concern for sororities. Women\u2019s dormitories were much stricter, with
regulations requiring girls to sign out when leaving and saying when they would be back. Sororities were
Page 1 of 3
Greek life: History of fraternities and sororities - The Stanford Daily Online

less regulated. Some female students asked that sororities be abolished.
\u201cThis was a way they could reunify the undergraduate women,\u201d Kimball said.
As a result, in 1944 the Board of Trustees voted to ban sororities. Although it has been rumored that this

decision was prompted by a suicide, Kimball says that this was not the case.
While sororities were banned, fraternities remained strong.
\u201cWhat\u2019s unique about our fraternities and sororities [at Stanford] . . . are that they\u2019ve always been on the

cutting edge nationally,\u201d said Joey Greenwell, assistant director of student activities and adviser to the
interfraternity council.
In the 1960s, many national chapters had racial and religious discriminatory policies, but several
fraternities at Stanford ignored them. In 1965, Sigma Chi was suspended by the national organization for

pledging an African-American member.
Fraternity Interest Declines,
Rebirth of Sororities
During the 1960s and 1970s, Stanford\u2019s fraternities were hit by a national trend \u2014 Greek life was becoming

less popular. Many fraternities had to sell their houses to the University because of financial hardships and the poor condition of the buildings. Some fraternities could not draw enough interest and had to close. The development of co-ed housing in the late 1960s also contributed to a drop in Greek life interest.

\u201cA lot of chapters left by natural attrition,\u201d Howe said.
However, in a Daily article published on Nov. 7, 1970, two fraternity managers lamented that the University
strictness on bills and debt was an effort to reduce the number of housed fraternities.
\u201cI wouldn\u2019t want to say that Stanford is trying to cut down the number of fraternities, but one might infer
it,\u201d said Chuck Kitsman, house manager of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

In the late 1970s, students demanded that the University allow sororities back on campus. The resurgence
in sorority interest was partly due to Title IX, which was passed in 1972 and prevented inequality in
education. As a result, the ban on sororities was lifted in 1977, but Sororities did not regain housing for
another 20 years.

While interest in sororities grew, fraternities continued to suffer. In the 1980s student housing was
guaranteed for all four years, which further decreased interest in fraternities. Also, three fraternities lost
their houses because of behavioral issues. Howe noted that one fraternity lost its housing privileges after
someone threw a burning couch out of a window.

Further stunting fraternity growth, a policy known as the \u201cgrandfather policy\u201d was instated in 1985. This policy allowed fraternities to keep their houses if they were already housed, but once they lost their houses they could not get them back. This policy also excluded sororities from being able to receive on-campus housing.

Page 2 of 3
Greek life: History of fraternities and sororities - The Stanford Daily Online

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