The Revoluntionary College Project
Theta Chi

ABOVE - Theta Chi brothers in the early 1940s relax in their living room on fraternity row.

S. Neil Hayes graduated from Washington College in 2007.


Red SwirlFraternal Instincts

By S. Neil Hayes

Throughout its history, Washington College had been looking for a way to expand outward, socially, while building pride and prestige.  The College decided to achieve this goal with the creation of Greek-Fraternal organizations.  These fraternal organizations served to contribute to the overall campus apathy.  In the years to come, they would continue to cause much controversy as well as benefit the overall growth of the college. 

The process of building the college socially began on October 31, 1928.  That year an article in The Elm, written by Nelson F. Hurley, presented the student body’s increasing urge for fraternities on campus.  “They want one; they realize what a boost it would give the college if several were here.”[1]  There were two reasons why Washington College was not able to support an organization such as a fraternity.  In the past, its small size alone was a factor.  The other reason was that fraternities would eventually cause ill feeling among brothers and non-frat members.  However, the student body did understand that the advantages of a fraternity far outweighed the disadvantages.  It was indeed true that the college had been growing and now was able to support such an organization.  Nelson F. Hurley, a writer for the Elm stated, “It would be the most progressive step the school had taken in a number of years…. It would show outsiders that we are growing as a college”. [2]  Without these fraternal organizations, Washington College would be behind in competition with other schools.  The fact that a college “rates” socially influences a prospective student’s choice to a great extent.  Without a strong social life, students would just look right past Washington as a possible choice for college.  It was imperative that the school find a way to improve its social standing in higher education or risk falling into the pages of academia. 

In 1928, fraternities offered enticing benefits to a college such as Washington.  First of all, they added to the overall social prominence of the school.  Secondly, by facilitating the housing problem, in doing so would aid the college’s growth.  These organizations would also need a place to call home.  By building new residential areas for frats, the college would, as a result, grow substantially.  Lastly, they would indirectly build a spirit of rivalry and accelerate school pride in competition, something Washington College desperately needed at that time.[3]

The next year, March 6, 1929, as a result of overwhelming interest, the Faculty met with the Board of Visitors and Governors to grant petition for a Greek-Letter Fraternity.[4]  The petition granted Alpha Kappa (A.K.) to be the first of these Fraternities.  Surprisingly, A.K. had already been in existence at Washington College for six years prior to 1929.  In 1923 A.K. was created with “the good of Washington College”[5] on its mind.  The chapter of 1929 had a total of seventeen members.  They all hoped to become a national chapter by 1930.  Dean Jones helped A.K. achieve national status by 1930 and secured the Fraternity as a permanent fixture at Washington College.[6] 

Several decades to come more fraternities started to find a home at WAC.  During the year of 1964, the Fraternities at Washington College consisted of the Beta Eta chapter of Theta Chi, Beta Omega chapter of Kappa Alpha Order, Epsilon Theta Zeta chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha, and Epsilon Tetarton chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa.  These frats were an important social and academic structure of the campus and also served as social intermediaries to other schools. 


In 1964 The Beta Eta Chapter of Theta Chi prided itself on being an athletic fraternity.  It exhibited many interest in an around Washington College including listing a class president and vice president as brothers.  It also had officers in the varsity club.  That year the Thetas were a popular frat mostly because of their annual dance, the OX- Hop, at which time their “Dream Girl” was selected.[7]  In 1964 they selected Anne Funkey, with much admiration.  The fraternity consisted of fifteen members that year, led by a president, vice president, officer, treasurer, and house manager. 


The Beta Omega chapter of Kappa Alpha Order followed their mission, “Kappa Alpha Order seeks to create a lifetime experience that centers on reverence to God, duty, honor, character, and gentlemanly conduct as inspired by Robert E. Lee, our spiritual founder.”[8]  A mission gives the fraternity positive guidance which all members tried to emulate.  KA believed that participating in college activities was an important part of college life; it built a better-rounded student.  The chapter produced many college leaders during that year.  KA’s most well known traditions are the rebel flag and the “Red Jackets.”[9]


The Mission of Kappa Alpha Order


Kappa Alpha Order seeks to create a lifetime experience that centers on reverence to God, duty, honor, character, and gentlemanly conduct as inspired by Robert E. Lee, our spiritual founder.


The Epsilon Theta Zeta chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha had seventeen members in 1964.  They were most well remembered for acquiring permanent possession of the Homecoming decorations trophy.  They were also awarded trophies for scholarship on campus. 


The Epsilon Tetarton chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa was among the largest of the fraternities, with twenty-three members.[10]  Phi Sigs were best known for their incredible choral sound.  They would often give frequent serenades around campus.  Their yearly parties included the Moonlight ball and the Roman Orgy Party.[11] 


Fraternities were all about image during that time, more so than today.  The Brothers who were often selected had lower grade point averages than some other students who were not selected to pledge.  Students who were selected to pledge were often the ones who had attended the frat parties in the past and made a social impression on the brothers.  


A letter was written to from Dean Horsley and Brewer to President Gibson and Dean Kirkwood that discussed the future of Fraternity life on campus.  It was a pivotal moment in Washington College history.  Visitors and Governors decided whether to abolish Frat Life on campus or to retain it.  It was their decision and would prove to be an important one for the future of the school.  They soon decided that abruptly abolishing the fraternities on campus would be impossible.  The college would have to give the organizations time to settle their affairs in a considerate manner.  After discussing this idea of an abrupt abolishment, the Board offered a new approach of gradually phasing out Fraternities.  This process, if it were to happen, would see the overall abolishment of frats in the year 1964.  This approach would have given these organizations time. 


Later that year, the Social Life Committee cited numerous problems with present Fraternity life.  Fraternities, by their very nature divide the campus and establish a second-class citizenry, “The Independents,” who are regarded by some as being “unwanted.”[12]  Students who joined these organizations acquired a reputation for social prestige, a prestige not necessarily based on personal qualities or abilities.[13]  The division of the campus that year into “haves” or “have nots” determined by superficial popularity was brought about by tradition of the fraternal values.  The Social Life Committee Report stated that there was a need for more campus pride.  Although the committee outlined some important advantages of Greek Life such as group social life, brotherhood, prestige and status symbolization, it stressed the problems as well.  Fraternities cause “Destruction of individual identity by powerful group pressure for conformity…. Members are discouraged from forming close associations outside the group.”[14]  Another problem was that Frats obstruct members’ academic ability.  The student’s affiliation with the frat puts school in second place.  Lastly, expenses reach as much as ten per cent of tuition the first year.[15]  Overall, Dean Kirkwood stated that the committee’s report did not attack fraternities, but that they didn’t have a positive place on the Eastern Shore Campus.  In 1963, the Washington College Elm polled 395 students on campus.  They found that 287 were against disbanding frats and 75 were in favor of the action.[16]  32 students had no opinion on the matter. 


To understand why this problem began it is important to look at how fraternities maintain their overall power.  First of all, Frat power comes from sources outside Washington College’s control.  The National Organization of Fraternities gave frats on campus the real power.  They had monetary and advisory control over its members.  They had the ability to fine members and chapters, lend them money, and demand support from the local group in return.  The principle reason for a student to join a frat was social prestige.  Many were enticed to join resulting in other students envying the frats.  That prestige, once obtained, gave the student economic and social advantages which existed after a student graduated as well as while they were on campus.[17]  The overall notion of the time was that if the school did not have Greek Life on its campus than it was not “in.”  That notion allowed fraternities the opportunity to create status for themselves.  Secondly, Fraternities maintained much of their strength because of their members close proximity to one another.  By living in a common dwelling these frat brothers created a cohesive unit through strong interaction.  They soon became a strong organization that was effective at carrying out orders.  Lastly, the pledge process in effect detached eventual members from the rest of society and other students on campus.  The prestige of initiation made the pledge feel superior to other students. 


Organization gave the fraternities their strength.  Through organization they were able to elect leaders to campus positions in the student government thus gaining more power for the frat.  Even an able representative of Student Government would have been torn between representing his fraternity or the student body. 


The power fraternities derived was a sort of non-formalized power.  The real power existed with the unrecognized structure of the frats, not only with the real governing authority, the Student Government Association.[18]  In other words, because of the frats growing social power, they were able to become more powerful than the Student Government.  It was felt by all that year that the division that occurred was breeding frustration and indifference. 


Talk about frats of today!


Over the next three decades Fraternity life changed at Washington College in a way that would be felt intensely.  The Fraternity world today is much different from the one of 1964.  Societal values began to change, influencing student’s views towards their lives and future desires.  On the whole, students coming to Washington College no longer were looking for a fraternity-based campus.  They were coming to WC for athletics and a good social atmosphere that was not dominated alone by fraternal organizations. 


These days, the College has grown substantially from 1964.  With the introduction of the Internet and cell phones, communication has improved dramatically.  Students can now form stronger social units in half the time. Most are so connected with friends in and around campus with friends that there is no longer a need to be a part of a fraternity.


The question is raised: what besides economic need brings individuals together under the fraternal system of today?  Why with such a strong sense of individualism, do students today feel they have to pledge?  There is no doubt that men and woman grow to meet and like one another through the social activities of their respective organizations.  One could say that a student’s only reason for joining could be to meet girls and without the frat, he never could have accomplished this otherwise.  Maybe it is because they just want to be a part of a “title” which today has little or no meaning to the rest of the college. 


In talking to a friend of mine early last year, he explained to me that he was interested in forming a new fraternity chapter on campus, Kappa Sigma.  He said that he and many others were frustrated with the other fraternities behavior in and around campus and wanted to bring back a more traditional fraternal lifestyle a lifestyle that would bring back a sense of the brotherhood, service, and growth that had inevitably been lost over the years.   


Kappa Sigma is one of the oldest and largest fraternities in North America that believes in the total development of today's college man.  It fosters a values-based fraternity environment on the principles of Fellowship, Leadership, Scholarship, and Service.  On Friday, March 3rd and Saturday, March 4, 2006, a total of twenty-five men pledged to the Kappa Sigma fraternity.  Together they strive to be the best fraternity on campus while gaining respect for Greek organizations at Washington College.  This fall the brothers will continue to complete necessary tasks to move from being recognized as a colony to being recognized as a chapter. 


It is a fact that the same values that fraternities encouraged in the past are the very values frats are neglecting now.  It’s sad to think that every year there are documented cases of rape in fraternities throughout the United States.  On Wednesday November 1, 2006 at 4:40 PM, a 19 year of college student at UT-Martin in Martin, Tennessee, reported that she was raped at an off campus party.[19]  The incident occurred at a Kappa Alpha fraternity house and is part of an on going epidemic involving fraternities across the nation.  It’s surprising that many frats have still been allowed to operate.  Members believe so intently that they are part of the social hierarchy when in fact they are far from it.  It is this belief that causes many brothers to become disillusioned with reality, thus leading them to commit rape or other horrible acts.  


Fraternity life here at Washington College has seen a myriad of changes since its conception in 1929.  From their humble beginnings to almost being completely disbanded from school to becoming a place to party, these organizations played an integral part of the growth of Washington College.  In conclusion, John Dewey once wrote, “Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not preparation for life but life itself.”[20]   

Works cited-

Washington College Collegian, Faculty and Board of Visitors and Governors Grant Petition to Form Greek Letter Fraternity. No. 6, Wednesday, March 6, 1929.

Washington College Collegian, The Fraternity Problem at Washington College. By Nelson F. Hurley. Page two,Wednesday, October 31, 1928. 

The Pegasus, 1959, 1964. Pgs. 130, 132,134,136  

The Evening Sun.  Shore College Fraternity Ban Eyed. By Christopher Gaul. Pg. B1.  Baltimore, Friday, January 22, 1965.

1963-1965. Daniel Z. Gibson (1950-1970).  Main stacks.  Copyright ® ThinkExist 1999-2006 

The Jackson Sun. “Woman reports rape at off-campus house of UT-Martin fraternity.” November 1, 2006 Wednesday 4:40

PM GMT. Lexis Nexis Academic


[1] The Elm, Hurley. October 21, 1928. Pg 2

[2] The Elm, Hurley. October 21, 1928. Pg 2

[3] The Elm, Hurley. October 21, 1928. Pg 2

[4] Washington College Collegian. No. 6, Wednesday, March 6, 1929.

[5] Washington College Collegian. No. 6, Wednesday, March 6, 1929.

[6] Washington College Collegian. No. 6, Wednesday, March 6, 1929.

[7] The Pegasus, 1959. Pg. 130

[8] The Pegasus, 1959. Pg. 132

[9] The Pegasus, 1959. Pg. 132

[10] The Pegasus, 1959. Pg. 134

[11] The Pegasus, 1959. Pg. 136

[12] 1963-1965. Daniel Z. Gibson (1950-1970). Main Stacks.

[13] 1963-1965. Daniel Z. Gibson (1950-1970).  Main stacks.

[14] The Evening Sun. Pg. B1. Friday, January 22, 1965.

[15] The Evening Sun. Pg. B1. Friday, January 22, 1965.

[16] The Evening Sun. Pg. B1. Friday, January 22, 1965.

[17] 1963-1965. Daniel Z. Gibson (1950-1970).  Main stacks.

[18] 1963-1965. Daniel Z. Gibson (1950-1970). Main Stacks.

[19] The Jackson Sun. Lexis-Nexis

[20] 1999-2006




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