History, Mission & Values
To promote a community within EMU that inspires leadership development, fosters personal growth, and creates lifelong learning.
The chapter will engage members in a process that actively addresses issues on both local and national levels. Through these activities, the chapter will instill a lifelong commitment to citizenship in its members.
The chapter will develop and maintain a scholastic program that promotes success, growth, and the importance of academics in its members. The chapter will also instill a commitment to life-long learning outside the classroom for its members to increase their awareness in other areas such as arts, culture, and current events.
The chapter will create a safe and healthy environment which fosters brotherhood and sisterhood within their respective chapters and promotes collaboration throughout the Fraternity and Sorority Life and EMU communities. These relationships will be rooted in the purpose and values of the organization. In addition, the chapter will respect the dignity of all people while embracing the free exchange of ideas and beliefs while educating and promoting healthy lifestyles.
Integration of Purpose
The chapter will understand the purpose and values of their organization and educate its members on how these ideals relate to their daily activities. The chapter will foster and promote environments that are consistent with their purpose. Individuals within the chapter will take ownership of their organizational values and be responsible to them.
The chapter will foster an environment that encourages, supports, and promotes leadership in its members. This will include leadership experiences both inside and outside of the organization. Leadership is defined by the following basic assumptions based on the article, Leadership Reconsidered: Engaging Higher Education in Social change:
- Leadership is concerned with fostering growth.
- Leadership is inherently value-based.
- Chapter provides opportunity for all people to be potential leaders.
- Leadership is a group process.
Greek letter societies at Eastern Michigan University began long before it became a University. Beginning with The Lyceum in the mid-1800’s literary societies began to form as an avenue for students to find a social outlet that they felt was missing from the Normal school. Though the Lyceum was fraternal in nature, the Washingtonian Toastmaster’s Club was the first organization to exist that also explicitly stated that a club that be more social in nature was needed. This organization would change its name to the Greek letters Phi Delta Pi in 1899 and continue on through history as a Greek letter organization on campus.
Prestige on Campus
Early History. When the state of Michigan founded the first normal school outside of the 13 colonies, it was 1849. Only four years later, it opened as Michigan State Normal School. Another opened in 1853 and by 1875 was listed in the Aurora yearbook as a society that met weekly on Friday evenings, was open to everyone, and considered an “excellent field in which to train upon budding lawyers and to exercise in the manly art of politics, but unwieldy to be used for general literary work,” (EMU Archives, Aurora, 1875). Though it stated that it was open to all, the description certainly makes it seem as if it was for men to gather and engage in conversation about law and politics. The Lyceum may have had a very definite impact on the Normal school. In 1882, the school newspaper at the time, the Normal News, begins to dedicate a section to organizations on campus called “societies.” In 1881 and 1882, issues of the normal news start to mention the Lyceums four organizations, and other groups, including The Summit Street Boys and the Students’ Christian Association. Students who were graduating from MSNC at the time may have also played a role in starting similar societies on other campuses. The Normal News in 1883 features articles about students who have graduated from MSNC and started similar organizations at other institutions. Around the same time, students who are members of these MSNC societies start to enter their own announcements and updates in the Normal News. A short time later, in 1892 another men’s group was formed, called the Washingtonian Toastmaster’s Club. It had its foundation in a gathering of boys from the normal school, when they assembled with their classmate Paul Cowgill, to share a package that he had received from his parents. “The generosity of the host, the delicacies of the repast, the stories, the toasting, and the pleasanting together suggested the idea that an organized club with regular times of meeting would be such a social factor that the Normal school had long needed,” (EMU Archives, Aurora, 1893). The men who formed the club initially, remembered George Washington’s fondness for social gatherings, and his love for storytelling and speeches. They decided to form a club in his honor and with many of the same practices. One of the clubs founders went to The University of Michigan after his studies at the Michigan State Normal College, where he started a similar club that became and remained very successful. Another member helped to start the Beta chapter in Mt. Pleasant. The group at MSNC would go on to change their name to Phi Delta Pi in 1899. The stated purpose of this newly named club was “as of many other organizations, is to cultivate this subordination of self to the will of many – that is, the development of the individual in society,” (____).
Early 1894 saw the beginning of women’s fraternal organizations at Michigan State Normal College when a group of nine women formed a secret club and called it JPN, which some remember as standing for Jolly Petticoat’s Nine, and others remember standing for the Just Progressive Normalities. The women in November of 1894 and their conversation turned toward the lives they were leading at the Normal school. There was an overwhelming agreement that even though the mathematics, language, and sciences were important, social interactions were also needed. This became the focus of forming the new organization. In 1896, the thirteen current members of the organization decided to remove any mystery. The 1896 Aurora featured a page about the J.P.N.’s. One of the women wrote the following entry:
“What are we? Just Progressive Normalities! At last the cloud of mist rises and our name stands revealed! Not without misgivings does our modesty permit us to thus appear before the critical eyes of the world, even after a year of vigorous and steady growth; but to prove the fallacy of the various conjectures of some of our Co’eds (?) and to allay the curiosity of all, which we have so unintentionally aroused, we disclose the meaning of the mystic J.P.N. We have concealed the name thus far only to demonstrate that girls can keep a secret, at least until a fit time for its revelation.”
In 1897, a faculty member named Alice Eddy Snowden assisted the J.P.N. as they transformed into an organization with a traditional Greek-letter name; Pi Kappa Sigma. This organization ended up being influential on a national level, as chapters were born throughout the United States over the next 20 years. In 1915, the sorority worked to become a nationally recognized chapter and held a convention to do so. They even joined the Association of Education Sororities in 1917, which, at the time, was called the Association of Pedagogical Sororities. The other members of the APS at the time were also organizations that had been formed as sororities at other teacher education schools. One of the initial chapters of the APS was Sigma Sigma Sigma (formed at Longwood University in Virginia, the state’s first institution to offer teacher education). The other founding member was Alpha Sigma Alpha. Pi Kappa Sigma, Delta Sigma Epsilon, Alpha Sigma Tau, Theta Sigma Upsilon, and Pi Delta Theta were all later admitted to the APS. In 1917, the name was changed to the AES to be seen as more professional. During the early years of the AES, the National Panhellenic Conference was also operating chapters at some of the same campuses that the AES was operating chapters at. Later, in 1947, the NPC considered offering associate membership status to six of the AES sororities. One of the agreements of the AES dissolving and joining the NPC, was that the chapters of the AES that existed at unaccredited colleges had to close. Women that held memberships in both an NPC group and an AES group had to choose. This was a difficult time for Pi Kappa Sigma, and it suffered loss to its overall membership. Pi Kappa Sigma remained an NPC recognized organization only until 1959, when Sigma Kappa absorbed the organization. A sorority that started in 1894 at Michigan State Normal College had grown into a national organization that had helped women engage in social practices for over 60 years. Sigma Kappa still remains open at Eastern Michigan University to this day.
World War I. From 1903 to 1925, Michigan State Normal School only saw an increase in sororities that formed on campus, both local and national in nature. In 1903, a local chapter called Theta Chi formed, followed by a local chapter named Zeta Tau Alpha in 1910, which would be absorbed by a national chapter, Alpha Sigma Alpha, in 1924. In 1912, the Upsilon chapter of Theta Lambda Sigma national sorority formed at MSNC, followed by the Eta chapter of Delta Sigma Epsilon in 1914. 1914 also saw the opening of a local sorority named Kappa Gamma Phi, and 1917 welcomed another national sorority, Sigma Sigma Sigma, which was the Onicron chapter, and is still open at EMU today. Sororities continued to form new chapters into the 1920’s. MSNC President Mckenny took notice of this and a story in the Normal News had him stating that only four fraternities for men was not enough at the time (EMU Archives, Normal News, 1920). Still, only sorority expansion continued. In 1921, Delta Phi Epsilon sorority established a chapter, Theta Sigma Upsilon followed in 1923 with their Beta chapter opening. Kappa Mu Delta, a local chapter established in 1923, Alpha Sigma Alpha’s national headquarters absorbed the local Zeta Tau Alpha in 1924, and a local chapter named Pi Delta Theta opened in 1925. Sigma Sigma Sigma and Alpha Sigma Alpha were founding members of the Association of Pedagogical Sororities. Delta Sigma Epsilon, which was formed in 1914, was the Eta chapter of the national organization, and remained at Michigan State Normal College until the organization was absorbed by the Delta Zeta national headquarters in 1956. Delta Zeta also remains open to this day at EMU. The number of single letter chapters that formed at MSNC in the first 25 years of the 1900’s is astounding. Five chapters nationally opened some of their first chapters at MSNC. Some of the local chapters from MSNC were also absorbed by national organizations during this time. From 1914-1918, while World War I was taking place, only sororities formed at MSNC. In 1914, the enrollment numbers reported for EMU were 1684 students. In 1918, enrollment was only 946 students. Though there is not data available that distinguishes which of these students were men and which were women, the enrollment decrease could be attributed to the number of men that could have been serving during the war. No new fraternity branches opened at that time, though the few that had already been formed, remained during and after those years. Other sororities, like Theta Sigma Upsilon also had chapters at MSNC for an extended period of time. The MSNC chapter remained open until 1942, but then returned in presence to EMU when Alpha Gamma Delta nationally absorbed Theta Sigma Upsilon in 1959 and re-established at EMU in 1974. Alpha Gamma Delta is still at EMU today. An enormous amount of growth occurred for sororities during this time period and faculty and staff on campus took notice. An article in a 1926 issue of the Normal News includes a pro/con style debate on whether or not students can benefit from joining fraternal organizations at MSNC. During this time period, the articles in the Normal News about sororities mostly update readers on the parties, banquets, and dances that students are participating in. Many of those party themes were themed around other cultures. For example, in the 1926 Normal News, sororities were having Russian-themed parties and Romanian teas. Some faculty and students found fraternities and sororities at MSNC to be exclusive. A 1927 article in the Normal News featured an article titled, “Social committee studies students in organizations.” The article stated that “there is no tendency for the student body to over-organize,” but that the “present organizations could serve more students,” (EMU Archives, Normal News, 1927). Later, in 1929, an article appears cautioning students against joining a fraternal organization and urging them to focus on academics first. In the same issue, many theme parties are presented, on themes including an Eskimo party, a circus party, and period parties. The Normal News starts to feature a section called “The Greek World,” in 1932.
Even after WWI ended, not a single fraternity opened at MSNC until 1928. In the ten years following the low enrollment of 1918, enrollment climbed to 2,217 students in 1928. The founding of fraternities at MSNC started back up again with Zeta Chi Sigma, a local fraternity, forming in 1928. Zeta Chi Sigma was formed, when a few young men felt that something was missing in their college lives. It was the first time since 1914, a men’s society like this had been proposed at the college. The first members organized by charging a $3.00 membership fee. Those who could pay were members, and those who could not, automatically became pledges, (EMU Archives, Zeta Chi Sigma collection). Zeta Chi Sigma was in existence during some pretty important national events, and documents written by members during these times reflect the challenges the organization faced, especially during the Great Depression and the Second World War. In 1929, Sigma Mu Sigma, a national fraternity, founded their Iota chapter at MSNC. It was originally only open to Master Masons. In 1935, it was absorbed by Tau Kappa Epsilon on a national level. Another fraternity founded a single letter chapter at MSNC in 1934, called Phi Sigma Epsilon. In 1985, on a national level, leaders of this organization split and alumni seceded, forming one new national organization, Phi Sigma Phi, and joining another national organization, Phi Sigma Kappa. Both of those fraternities remain open at EMU today. In 1934, Phi Sigma Kappa also established a chapter at MSNC. This boom of fraternal organizations paused until the late 1940’s, post-WWII. In 1938, MSNC President Munson is quoted in the Normal News dismissing rumors of men’s dormitories, saying “that men preferred the freedom of private residence where they would not be required to keep hours” (EMU Archives, Normal News, 1938). He also explained that it would be “practically impossible to supply men’s dormitory rooms at the current prices.” This may have helped fraternities continue to flourish using off-campus housing as an attractive recruitment option for men at MSNC at the time. Though no fraternal expansion continued until after WWII, fraternities continued to be active at MSNC consistently throughout the late 1930’s. In fact, men from fraternities all over the state of Michigan convened in E. Lansing in 1939 to discuss abolishing “rough stuff,” related to hazing and “hell week” traditions as relevancy on campuses had begun to be questioned (EMU Archives, Normal News, 1939).
World War II. In 1941 and 1942, the Normal News began to feature articles about war and fraternities begin mentioned in the paper become few and far in between. The fraternities that did remain active on campus were discussed as being “jealous and competitive of each other” This could be related to the few men that remained on campus for fraternities to try to take in as pledges. Again, during wartime, fraternities at MSNC struggled to maintain membership, and no new chapters were formed. In fact, some chapters that were already in existence at MSNC, struggling to maintain membership, turned to larger, national organizations to absorb their membership, and use a larger national network of support to continue the chapters in the post-war years. Enrollment at MSNC dropped from 2,257 in 1938 to only 675 in 1944. With dwindling enrollment statistics, it made it more difficult to recruit or maintain membership. The 1941 Aurora listed 194 fraternity men and only 152 were listed in 1942. 161 are listed in 1943, and then only one group is featured at all in the 1944 Aurora, only listed 11 men total. Only 8 fraternity men are listed in 1945. During this time, many fraternities did not maintain their regular operations. By looking at the records of those from MSNC who served, I was able to compare the names to the Aurora fraternity rosters and found that 58 fraternity men were listed as having served by 1946. Almost the entirety of each Normal News issue is dedicated to the war coverage. Many men from MSNC are noted to have been killed in action. In 1944 and 1945, the Normal News coverage debates the difference and benefits of going to war, vs. going to college. An article appears about men’s dormitories being constructed. In 1946, a new column appears in each issue, called “Know the Veterans,” and the purpose is to feature war veterans who are returning to MSNC. At this time, fraternities begin their post-war rushing period and a large section in the paper is dedicated to fraternal activities on campus again. Unlike the First World War, sororities also struggled to form at MSNC during this time period. A newsletter written by a Zeta Chi Sigma fraternity alumni member stated described the way things were changing at MSNC in December of 1945.
“At good old Ypsi things are getting back to normal too. The enrollment is picking up rapidly and men- yes real honest-to-goodness men are coming back to the campus. Last year there were only between 30 and 40 of them but this fall we have about 175. Between 60 and 70 of these are former service men. The second semester promises an even larger number.” (EMU Archives, Zeta Chi Sigma Collection, Alumni newsletter, 1945).
Since WWII, Fraternity and Sorority Life at EMU has continued to grow and change. The community now has four councils, MGC, IFC, CPC, and NPHC.
-Authored by Casey Jordan Krone as part of dissertation research.
Last updated: July 2021