Greek Emergence redefines social scene
In 1895 the B.U. Hatchet announced that “21 of the fairest and most accomplished ladies of our town and college are now members of the Lamba Chapter of Delta Delta Delta.”
That announcement signified the emergence of a new social system on Baker’s campus. The Lamba Chapter was formed by six Baker women as a local fraternity in 1890, adding to the Alpha Omega fraternity, a local Greek organization formed by Baker men in 1889.
On March 12, 1895, the group had grown popular enough to gain affiliation with the national sorority, Delta Delta Delta. In 1903, Alpha Omega went on to become affiliated with the national fraternity, Delta Tau Delta.
As the 19th century drew to a close, the notion of a Greek society on campus had become more popular among students, but it wasn’t always well received. At the time, certain members of the campus community struggled with the introduction of activities that had potential to distract from the University’s mission.
Social activities often focused on literary societies. Groups of students would congregate in the evenings and prepare events such as recitals, readings, lectures and oratories. In the early days, Greek organizations and literary societies became competitors in the social life of Baker University. The Biblical Society, a prominent literary society, forbade members to join Greek organizations. However, that ban was lifted in 1905, as the Greek system continued to grow.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, Delta Delta Delta and Delta Tau Delta were joined by five national Greek organizations – Kappa Sigma in 1903, Alpha Chi Omega in 1908, Sigma Phi Epsilon in 1910, Zeta Tau Alpha in 1912 and Phi Mu in 1916.
In 1905, a local fraternal organization – Zeta Chi – was formed. The new Greek addition was organized with standards of scholarship, daily conduct and achievement. The principles held true. In its first 50 years, Zeta Chi produced three of Baker’s four Rhodes Scholars —Warren Ault, 1907, Frank B. Bristow, 1907, and Raymond Pruitt, 1933. Unlike Baker’s other Greek organizations, Zeta Chi never sought affiliation with a national organization. More than a century later, Zeta Chi remains a Baker original as the only independent fraternity on campus.
A set of eight Greek organizations – four fraternities and four sororities – created a foundation for Baker’s Greek system. However, a number of other groups have made their way into Baker’s Greek history. In the 1970s, when Baker saw a boom in the population of black students, historically black fraternities and sororities came to campus. The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and the Omega Psi Phi and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternities introduced Baker to the “Divine Nine” – a national council of historically black fraternities and sororities, also known as the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
The success of the three Greek organizations proved short-lived. However, one such group revisited the
notion in 2006. On Dec. 3 that year, eight women became official members of the historically black sorority, Zeta Phi Beta – another member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, when the Baker chapter was officially chartered. In the same year, groups of students worked to bring two fraternities – Phi Delta Theta and the historically black Kappa Alpha Psi, both of which, along with the Phi Mu sorority, have since become inactive.
For more than a century, the Greek system has given students a social environment and more. Today, more than 300 of Baker’s students are members of Greek organizations.