Open up Eastern’s 1977 yearbook and you will see the smiling faces of the members of Delta Pi Epsilon. Found in the Eastern College Organizations section, the group in the black and white photograph is grinning or cheering with their arms around each other. Some are wearing the fraternity’s Greek letters on the front of their shirts.
The following pages include the other five fraternities and sororities that existed in 1977. The fraternities included Kappa Alpha Gamma and Mu Delta Chi. Alpha Pi Sigma, Sigma Beta Phi and Theta Delta Chi were the sororities.
The peak of fraternity and sorority involvement at Eastern was 10 years earlier, in 1967. According to Eastern’s Historian and Archivist Dr. Frederick Boehlke’s book, Faith, Reason, and Justice: The First 50 Years of Eastern University, there were four fraternities and four sororities at Eastern in 1967. Some of the fraternities and sororities were mainly service organizations, while others were simply social groups.
Despite being on a Christian campus, the fraternities and sororities encountered many of the same problems as those at other colleges.
“No matter what anybody said, the reality was that for many of the fraternities and sororities, they were there for social reasons-and drinking became a part of that,” said Bettie Ann Brigham, vice president of student development.
Fraternity and sorority members became involved in negative behavior that included drinking, hazing and pressuring new students. “Rushing and hazing is such a huge part of fraternity and sorority culture that it is pretty impossible to control it,” Brigham said. Hazing did not become a huge issue at Eastern, but Brigham admitted that things were likely occurring without the administration’s knowledge.
Fraternities and sororities created problems on campus for first-year students. The groups would immediately try to get first-years to join their fraternities and sororities, and they would begin getting involved in the activities and behaviors of the groups. “The new students were getting involved in some pretty negative things, right off, because they were in a vulnerable position,” Brigham said. “The fraternities and sororities would have their pledges steal things or drink or those types of things, which are typical.”
As the years progressed, the fraternities and sororities at Eastern were dwindling in numbers and interest. According to The First 50 Years of Eastern University, “…In the fall of 1980, one fraternity was reported to have only nine members and a sorority had 10 members.” Before the groups finally disbanded, interest was dying out and administration discouraged involvement in the groups.
“We just let it fizzle out and it did,” Brigham said, referring to the last fraternity of Eastern students. According to The First 50 Years of Eastern University, the remaining fraternities and sororities disbanded around the year 1981.
A few years later, several students wanted to form a new fraternity, and Eastern decided to come to a general agreement about the issue. “The community-faculty, staff, administration and students-decided that we would not have fraternities and sororities at Eastern, and we would not entertain the question in the future,” Brigham said.
Brigham explained that after the last fraternity disbanded, various students admitted that being a member was far from a positive experience. “We know that when students come to college, they are looking for an identity to establish among their peers that they can be proud of,” Brigham said. “Eastern has so many groups and so many opportunities to get involved in that are not based on the fraternity or sorority concept, so we felt that there wasn’t a place on [Eastern’s] campus for fraternities and sororities.”