SIU's fraternity and sorority community began in 1923 & ever since has been leading the campus. SIU's oldest traditions were started by the fraternity & sororities.
The information below is from the article “From SINU to Today…Historical Moments in the Greek System at Southern” by Laura K. Taylor with updates to reflect our current population.
"Often misunderstood and stereotyped, Greek-letter organizations have a deep and rich history at universities and colleges throughout the United States, including Southern Illinois University. The traditions engrained in the members of these organizations not only provide the starting point for life-long friendships but they lay the foundation for university service well beyond the undergraduate years. Southern Illinois University, chartered in 1869, has had an usual journey in the development of its Greek system. From its beginnings at SINU to President Morris’ stance on membership selection to [the] 60th Theta Xi Variety Show, Southern Illinois University has a unique history within its Greek system.
Laying a foundation
Southern Illinois Normal University was the foundation of Southern’s modern Greek system. In February of 1923, Sigma Alpha Pi was established as a local men’s fraternity, the first of its kind at the teacher’s college. The Egyptian headline read, “Fraternity Established is First at S.I.N.U., Fratres are Organized…” Sigma Alpha Pi was also the first to occupy off-campus housing, when they acquired a home on the corner of College and Normal Avenue in March of 1923.
Surprisingly, unlike other universities of the time, there was not a quick establishment of additional men’s fraternities on campus. There was, however, the founding of Southern’s first women’s fraternity, Epsilon Beta, in February of 1923. At the time of Epsilon Beta’s founding, Anthony Hall (currently housing SIUC’s administrative offices) was a women’s dormitory and the home of Epsilon Beta’s first members. After almost a year, in January of 1924, Epsilon Beta moved into an off-campus house built by John Stotlar of Carbondale at 800 South Normal Avenue.
Although Sigma Alpha Pi eventually dissolved its organization by the early 1930s, both Sigma Alpha Pi and Epsilon Beta laid the foundation for Greek chapters to follow. An influx of men and women’s fraternities came to Southern by the mid-twentieth century. Seven men’s groups and four women’s groups were active on the campus by 1950.
Chapters make a push for nationalization
Many of the local Greek chapters on Southern’s campus felt the need to establish themselves as national fraternities. In order to do this these local groups had to petition a national organization for membership. Epsilon Beta, SINU’s first women’s fraternity, wished to become a national organization and petitioned the group Delta Sigma Epsilon for membership. In 1928, Epsilon Beta was installed as a national chapter of Delta Sigma Epsilon. This marked a significant milestone in the history of Southern’s Greek system, Delta Sigma Epsilon was the first national group to organize at the university. SINU also received a distinction along with the chartering of Delta Sigma Epsilon, it was the only teacher’s college or normal school in the state to have a national women’s group. In the fall of 1956, the national group Delta Sigma Epsilon entered into a merger with the national women’s group Delta Zeta. In 1956, Southern’s campus had both a Delta Zeta and Delta Sigma Epsilon chapter. In order not to combine the two campus groups, Delta Sigma Epsilon petitioned to be released from the merger and was successful. With the help of President Morris, Delta Sigma Epsilon became a national chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta in 1958.
Alpha Phi Alpha, Southern’s first historically African-American fraternity was established on the campus in 1933. According to the 1947 Obelisk, “the organization is open to all who wish to join it regardless of race, creed or color, if certain requirements are met.” At this time, many national fraternities had restrictive or discriminatory clauses in their constitutions regarding race, color or religion and membership selection.
University President Delyte W. Morris had quite an impact on the growth and expansion of SIU’s Greek system in regards to membership selection. President Morris’ tenure at the university began in 1948 with several national fraternities taking interest in establishing chapters at Southern. I.C. Davis, the Dean of Men for SIU, was a key figure along with President Morris, in ensuring that any national fraternity organized at SIU was open to all students. From 1948 through 1970, Morris’ presidency, several fraternities approached the university about installing new national chapters or affiliating current local chapters with national organizations. Sigma Pi Fraternity had a long and drawn out battle with the university eventually ending with the restructuring of their national constitution and the chartering of a chapter.
In 1949, Sigma Pi first explored the possibility of starting a chapter at Southern. Correspondence was exchanged between Davis and Sigma Pi, reiterating Southern’s stance on restrictive membership clauses in national constitutions. A year later, another extension request was made to the university by a Sigma Pi undergraduate student at Eastern Illinois University. In 1951 undergraduate members of the Eastern Illinois chapter of Sigma Pi made a visit to Southern, specifically to the Nu Epsilon Alpha Fraternity. After this visit Davis agreed to allow Nu Epsilon Alpha to become a colony of Sigma Pi on Southern’s campus. There was however one condition, that the eventual chartering of the Sigma Pi national chapter would not be allowed unless the restrictive clause was removed from the fraternity’s national constitution. In 1953, Sigma Pi’s Executive Council added two provisions to its constitution in hopes that SIU would allow for the full chartering of Sigma Pi. These provisions stated that the membership selection clauses of Sigma Pi would first and foremost be subordinate to the policies of the institution wherever a Sigma Pi chapter was located. After careful consideration and deliberation by President Morris and Davis the fraternity was granted permission to be installed as a full chapter of Sigma Pi in 1954. In January of 1955, the chapter was installed at Southern’s campus, almost six years after the fraternity’s first interest in the university.
Due to President Morris’ strict stance, no fraternities with restrictive clauses were installed or colonized at Southern Illinois University until the end of his tenure in 1970. By this time, many fraternities had already begun the process of removing restrictive membership clauses from their national constitutions. Although Southern’s stance inhibited the growth of SIU’s Greek system, the university was seen as a “pioneer” by Davis and others due to its modern stance on non-discriminatory practices.
With the modern Civil Rights movement, many fraternities dropped their policies regarding membership selection along the basis of race, color or religion. This opened the door for even more national fraternities and sororities at Southern. By 1975, there were 18 men’s fraternities and 9 women’s fraternities active on campus. The growth did not stop there. Currently, there are 33 Greek chapters on Southern’s campus including 21 men’s fraternities and 12 women’s fraternities.'
Information for this article was in part taken from Frances Becque’s thesis, A History of the Fraternity System at Southern Illinois University from 1948 through 1960.Top