The number of fraternities at Lafayette College, local chapters of national Greek letter secret college men’s clubs, has been decreasing. By the mid-1990’s it had dropped from nineteen to nine. A few more may expire because of lack of student interest. At the same time sororities, welcomed after the College began admitting women to degree programs in 1970, have been attracting large numbers of women students.
The fraternities were not originally welcome when they first appeared in the mid nineteenth century. Then at the beginning of the twentieth they were embraced by the Board of Trustees as the answer to the housing needs of the college. The fraternities and now the sororities are still expected to help fulfill these needs.
This article was inspired by the policy of the Board of Trustees of the College concerning the Greeks announced in the Spring of 1995 and effective in the Fall of 1996 — sophomore rushing for fraternities and sororities. My first gut reaction to the new regulations was negative, based on my own experiences over sixty years ago. In researching and writing this article I have come to realize that I was wrong. Various drafts of the paper have been read by President Arthur Rothkopf and the Administrative Secretary of the Board Philip Schroeder, by Dean Herman Kissiah and two Assistant Deans, Advisors to the Living Groups, Robert Smith and his successor Tracy Garnick, by Vice President Gary Evans, and the Director of Public Information Glenn Airgood, and by Archivist Diane Shaw and Librarian Neil McElroy. I appreciate their comments. The final work and interpretations are however my own.
Albert W. Gendebien ’34
Professor Emeritus of History