Greek Life at MSU

17 03 2014

Student groups and organizations have always been a part of the MSU’s history. Literary societies, activism groups and even squirrel watching clubs have shaped student life at the University since its beginning. MSU has also been home to one of the most iconic collegiate groups that has spurred on movies, books and television series, Greek Life.

Greek Life started at M.A.C in 1872 with the establishment of Delta Tau Delta. They were followed by Phi Delta Theta in 1873. However in 1896 the faculty banned national Greek organizations from forming at the College. Phi Delta Theta chose to be recognized as a local organization by changing their name to the Phi Delta Society. Due to the ban, many non-Greek societies began to form. The Union Literary Society, the Hesperian Literary Society and the Excelsior Society were among them.  In 1891 the first all-women’s group, the Feronian Society, was established. They were founded just five years before the creation of the Women’s Program in 1896. Academic and literary societies sought not only to have a forum for intelligent conversations, but also to plan and attend extravagant events and balls.

Members of the Phi Delta Society in the 1920 Wolverine Yearbook

Literary Societies also sought off campus housing, at the exclusivity of their members. However President Snyder was great proponent of the collegiate dormitory system and found this idea to be elitist and unnecessary. In 1905 the College did not have enough living spaces to accommodate all of its students. The faculty relented and allowed the Hesperian Society and the Colombian Society to buy its own meeting houses off campus.

 

The Trimoira Literary Society established at M.S.C in 1913

The 1920s gave way to an increase in students attending M.A.C and the lack of housing led faculty to allow off campus housing for more society members. In 1921 the ban on national Greek organizations was lifted and the first organizations to be established were the Alpha Gamma Delta and Alpha Phi Sororities. Alpha Phi was created by members of the Feronian Society.  Following them were the Forensic Society, who became Lambda Chi Alpha and the agriculturally based fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho.

Members of Alpha Phi in 1925

Throughout the 1920s more and more literary societies became affiliated with national Greek organizations. The Aurorean Literary Society became Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity in 1923. Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity was forged from the Dorian Literary Society in 1924. In 1925 the Orphic Literary Society became Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. From then on Greek life grew and became an integral part of MSU student life.

Competition has always been an important aspect of Greek Life. Chapters held Tug of War across the Red Cedar River, Chess Tournaments in local houses, as well as academic achievement contests throughout the school year. In 1930 Sigma Kappa Sorority won an exciting victory for overall best GPA on campus. They narrowly defeated the previous year’s winner, Alpha Chi Omega.

During the 1940s, World War II led to an overall decline in male enrollment at M.S.C. Fraternity houses were used to lodge coeds, due to a lack of women’s housing. Houses were also used by the Army and local R.O.T.C chapters. After the War, the G.I Bill allowed more and more students to attend college and Greek Life at M.S.C once again became a popular student activity.

In 1948 the first African American fraternity at the college was established by the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha. They were committed to philanthropic service to all mankind and to the advancement of interracial groups at the college. The first African American sorority at M.S.C. was Alpha Kappa Alpha. They were established in 1954 and engaged in such as activities as reading to the blind and giving campus tours. Today MSU proudly hosts all nine historically African American Greek organizations on its campus.

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in the 1950s

In the 1950s Greek life continued to expand. In 1959 the count was up to 20 nationally recognized sororities and 34 fraternities. All of these organizations participated in campus wide events such as Spartacade, Greek Sing, Water Carnival, Greek Week and Homecoming festivities. One fall, the Kappa Sigma fraternity bought a World War II era plane from a local bar owner for $40. They set it up outside of their house so that it appeared to have crashed into the side of their house. They placed a dummy inside and splattered the whole thing in ketchup for dramatic effect. A sign beside it read “He rushed Kappa Sigma but didn’t quite make it!”

1957 photo of Winter Carnival Float created by Alpha Omicron Pi and Theta Chi

1951 outdoor homecoming display of William and Mary’s execution on the lawn of Phi Delta Theta.

Greek Life saw its decline in the 1970s. Campus dorm life became less restrictive and the traditions of fraternity and sorority members seemed to be out of date. Many chapters closed due to lack of membership; including Alpha Omicron Pi in 1972 (the chapter was re-established in 1989).

In more recent years Greek life at MSU has seen a steady increase with recruitment and rush numbers moving well into the thousands. In November of 2013, 141 years after the first fraternity established at MSU, the Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council became recognized by the University.

Photo courtesy of MSU GreekLife: Representatives from Panhellenic Council and Interfraterity Council pose with President Simon and others at the recognizing of Greek Life by the University.

Sources

Michigan State University Archives, “African American Presence at MSU; Historic Firsts.” Accessed March 12, 2014. http://archives.msu.edu/collections/african_presence_firsts.php.

Michigan State University Greek Life, “MSU Greek Life: History and Future.” Last modified January 01, 2014. Accessed March 14, 2014. http://www.msugreeklife.org/history-and-future.

The 1959 Wolverine Yearbook, Michigan State University.

Thomas, David A. Michigan State College: John Hannah and the Creation of a World University. 1926-1969. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2008.

Widder, Keith R. Michigan Agricultural College: The Evolution of a Land-Grant Philosophy, 1855-1925. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2005.

Written By Caroline Voisine





A.W.S Handbooks and other MSU guides

25 02 2011

“HELLO! — — —

This handy little book is for YOU. Of course it won’t answer all your questions – but it will give you an idea of what goes on around campus. You know, it may even be a life-saver more times than you suspect … so how ‘bout getting acquainted?”

That was the greeting in the beginning of the 1949-50 A.W.S (Associated Women Students) Handbook “Who’s Who and What’s What”. This guide, given to female residents at the beginning of each school year included everything from dormitory regulations such as shower, typing, and radio/phonograph hours, smoking rules, and overnight guests in college residences to traditions at MSC that were the students’ responsibility to uphold. They began distribution in the late 1930s and continued until the early 1970s.

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Each issue (which came out annually) contained generally the same information: a list of board members, greetings from advisers, traditions, the AWS constitution and their bylaws. Every year however, there were special highlighted sections.  For example, the 1940-41 handbook had a “Dear Diary” section which would highlight events going on in a coed’s daily life such as how “the handsomest sophomore walked [her] home” and how she attended sorority tea, the Michigan State vs. Michigan football game, a Coke date at the Union Grill, and the Coed Carnival. The 1941-42 handbook highlights a “Letters Home” section where Joyce sends letters home to Sally Jean. She raves about the activities taking place on campus as well as her dorm, her “super swell” dorm-mates, and her “roomy”.

Campus activities and pieces of advice are also highlighted in these handbooks. For example, the 1946-1947 AWS Handbook warns female students of the so-called “male territories”:

“There is one place in East Lansing that is strictly for members of the opposite sex. Don’t let anyone send you into the Smoke Shop, for it is male territory with no exceptions. The lower lounge of Union building is also a place which men call their own”.

There were even guides of how to dress located on the back of the 1960s handbooks! – Check out the picture below!

The fight song was also included in the booklet for the new students.  It was encouraged that students should “learn them quick like a bunny”! Notice the changes in lyrics over the years:

“On the banks of the Red Cedar – is a college known to all. Their specialty is winning, and those Spartans play football. Spartan teams are never beaten – all through the game they fight. Fight for the only colors, Green and White. Smash right through that line of blue, watch the points keep growing. Spartan teams are bound to win, they’re fighting with a vim. RAH RAH RAH! See their line is weakening; we’re going to win this game! FIGHT FIGHT RAH TEAM FIGHT! Victory for M.S.C!”

The Spartan Women’s League also created etiquette handbooks for female and male students. This book is a definite favorite of mine for it outlines, in great detail, things young women and men should know about the college life. Here are some brief examples of the topics discussed…

Chaperons:

“Having chaperons and guests at your parties and dances gives you another chance to know your faculty outside of class situations”

Teas and Receptions:

“At a tea, you are required to remain only long enough to finish your drink, about fifteen to thirty minutes. When leaving, say a few words of appreciation to your hostess and then depart.”

Greetings/Introductions:

“If you are introduced to someone who holds out his hand, shake the hand, but not too firmly or limply. A good firm hand-clasp is customary among men, but it is an uncommon practice with girls.”

Table Etiquette:

A long list of advice is listed for the table etiquette section. There is everything you need to know from techniques for the use of silverware, to how to eat certain foods, to accessory techniques. My favorite piece of advice is in regards to eating a cherry or grapes with seeds,

“…remove the pit or seeds from your mouth between your thumb and first finger.” (so specific!)

Dating Courtesies:

“Don’t be a public liability by displaying affection which creates distasteful impressions on our visitors…As for petting…do what you feel is according to your moral standards.”

Classroom Etiquette:

“Pity the poor instructor who gets out of bed to come to his eight o’clock class of nodding heads with half-shut eyes…If the lecture is particularly boring, read a book, draw pictures, do the crossword puzzle, that is — do anything but SLEEP or TALK.”

The handbook contains many other tips, but those are just a few of my favorites! These books became very helpful for first year female students on campus and still are a gem today. They are extremely fun to pan through and make me think…if they were to hand out a guidebook to first year females today – what kind of information would be in it?





High Hopes for a Snow Day

1 02 2011

“They Said Six to Eight Inches: 24-inch snowfall brings freedom, wild weekend”

“Snow forces 2nd MSU shutdown ever”

Those were the titles on the front pages of the January 30, 1967, and April 4, 1975, State News (Note: another snow storm occurred in 1978). Will tonight be a repeat??

Forecasters are stating that East Lansing will be hit with anywhere from 10-14 inches of snow and receive gusts of wind measuring up to 40 miles an hour. I don’t think many students care exactly what kind of weather or how much snow we will  get, I think that we are all concerned about whether or not we’ll have classes tomorrow. It is every student’s never ending dream to have a snow day. We’ve loved them since pre-school and we love them even more now.

Did you know that MSU has only been shut down 3 times due to snow storms in its 156 year history?

January 27, 1967

Within 24 hours, 20.4 inches of snow fell throughout the University. All classes and university operations were suspended for two full days.  The forecast only stated that snow accumulation would be between 6-8 inches…boy were they wrong!  This snow storm created lines of 75-100 people, carrying suitcases, sleds, toboggans, and crates all for lugging home their Friday night drinks.  Tackle football games were played around campus and Grand River restaurants were full of hungry students. Olin had to address 18 injured students as a result of the snow and the police were working anywhere from 24-36 hour shifts.  The sheet of white fluffy stuff truly left the campus in a state of freedom…for the students at least.

* The University was completely closed. Classes were canceled and non-academic staff were told not to report. This was the first time the university was closed due to weather. No one was allowed to drive on campus except faculty and necessary services personnel*

April 4, 1975

“April storm brings flakes not flowers”. One wouldn’t necessarily expect a huge snow fall in April, but in 1975 it happened. Nearly 13 inches of snow fell on the campus within 15 hours. MSU shut itself down for the second time and students took it to their advantage. Dorm food trays were used as “mini toboggans” for sliding down the sloped roof of Munn Arena and snowball fights were breaking out everywhere on campus. And of course, the bars all filled up. Students were stated saying that they had too much work to catch up on so they instead decided to go to the bars to relax and enjoy their day off.

*The University was completely closed. This was considered the 2nd University shutdown ever due to weather*

January 25/26, 1978

This snow storm is perhaps the most remembered out of the three, not only because of its (kind of) recent occurrence, but because of the activities that resulted from it. The high winds along with the 18-inch blanket of snow that fell on the University prompted President Harden to close down MSU.  Michigan was declared to be in a state of emergency and it took work crews and emergency vehicles nearly 80 hours to clear the roads. MSU crews were also trying to clear the [then] 131 miles of campus pavement. Students took advantage of their time off and many went out to frolic in the snow. Others chose to go stock up on beer and alcohol to celebrate their time off. The 1978 Red Cedar Log Yearbook quotes one student stating, after a trip to Goodrich’s ShopRite, “The store was mobbed…Their supply of beer was gone in a day”.  Campus Corners II also sold out on their entire inventory of beer! Even the bar Dooley’s created a “Blizzard Special” where beer and mixed drinks were sold for half off.  Needless to say, I believe this snow storm didn’t disappoint the student body.

*Classes were canceled for 2 consecutive days however the university was closed only on January 25th. This was the first time that classes were canceled for two consecutive days*

So the question remains…will history repeat itself? Will MSU students and faculty be graced with a snow day tomorrow?  I personally don’t think the University will shut down again, however I do have faith that some classes might be cancelled.  It looks like we’ll have to find out tonight…

Sources:

Merrell, Jeff. “Snow Forces 2nd MSU Shutdown Ever.” State News [East Lansing] 4 Apr. 1975. Print.

Mollison, Andrew. “They Said Six to Eight Inches.” State News [East Lansing] 30 Jan. 1967. Print.

The Spirit of Michigan State, J. Bruce McCristal

1978 Red Cedar Log Yearbook





Student Life Then and Now

25 01 2011

The beginning of the spring semester two weeks ago breathed life back into MSU. Sidewalks on campus were occupied by bustling students, bookstores had lines out the door, and residence halls were once again full. The beginning of a semester also brings on the anxiety of having to dig into one’s pockets and bank accounts to fund their time at MSU; tuition, books, bus passes, sporting event tickets, and other expenses are a few examples. As a new student intern at the University Archives and Historical Collections, I began looking through books to not only familiarize myself with the history of MSU, but also to look for information for the On the Banks timeline. While going through a series of timelines in different books I began to wonder, did students in the earliest days of MSU history have to endure as much stress as I am going through with these new classes and paying for books and other expenses?  What did their average day look like compared to mine?

MSU currently has about 47,200 students with a little over half of them being female. There are numerous courses and majors to choose from which provides students with the ultimate freedom regarding their education. Students attend class beginning as early as 8:00am and can finish as late as 10:00pm. After classes, students flee back to their dorm rooms or off campus (where most students live), do their homework, go to work, and get ready for the next day. The weekends are full of fun as students attend on campus and off campus events.

Earlier life at MSU was a little different…

ca. 1900

In the first few decades of the university, from the 1850s to the 1870s students would occupy the boarding halls on campus, Saint’s Rest or College Hall. Remember, when the university was founded, only men attended. As many as four young men would occupy a room and two students shared a bed. A small wooden stove heated their room and each student would rent furniture. In their new homes students would study, argue with roommates, sleep, plot pranks, keep diaries, and write to friends back home. Eventually, when Williams hall was built in 1870, the university allowed for the admittance of women.

The students’ curriculum was planned out for them already. There was no stress of choosing a major or scheduling class. There were set courses of instruction to take for each year at the university, and it wasn’t until 1883 when students could choose three out of five studies. The set courses of instruction would range from arithmetic, English grammar, natural philosophy, vegetable physiology, inductive logic, political economy, and technology. Students would begin their day by attending chapel exercises at 5:30am which would be followed by breakfast at 6am. Students were divided up into three sections, and at this time the first section of students would engage in manual labor around campus which would last from 6:30-9:30am.

Meanwhile, classes for the other two sections would begin at 7am. Each class was about an hour long and would differ in length depending on the course. For example, praxis was only a three week course while botany was ten weeks. (Note: Courses would change from year to year).  At 12:30pm all classes would be finished, food would be provided and all students engaged in manual labor from 1:30-4:30pm. Women were to follow a little different course load. They would take classes such as cooking, sewing, calisthenics, and domestic art.

A lot has changed from the earlier days of MSU. I couldn’t even image having to wake up to attend church service as 5:30am or engage in manual labor after a long day of class! Not only that, but to have to share a bed with someone or not have any choice in what courses to take would not be fun. Needless to say, MSU students today shouldn’t take for granted their 10:20am classes!

Sources:

http://www.msu.edu/about/thisismsu/facts.html

History of Michigan Agricultural College, W.J. Beal





New Favorite Photo

24 09 2010

As archivists we get to see a lot of different materials in our collections and we certainly have our favorites.  Recently I discovered a photograph that I’m sure I had seen before, but never really paid much attention to it.  Once I looked at the photo, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  The photo shows a group of (mostly) naked, drunk students in their dorm room.  They also appear to be smoking, drinking, and gambling in the photo.  The photograph is dated 1906.

Needless to say, it was against regulations for students to be smoking, drinking or gambling on campus at that time.  What I love about the photo is that the students seemed so confident in their behavior that they actually posed for it.  It is also a great example of how the administration of a school can set up rules, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the students were following them.

What do you think of our photograph?  (Remember kids, after 100 years a photo like this becomes awesome.  Don’t put a current one on your Facebook page!)

MAC students violating all the rules in 1906

Drunk, naked, smoking, gambling MAC students in 1906.





Early Campus Pranks

1 04 2010

It is April Fools’ Day and I don’t know what pranks students have planned for this year, but students in the early years on this campus were constantly playing pranks upon each other and the faculty.  Many of the pranks evolved around hazing freshmen.  Typically, upperclassmen, especially sophomores, would grab freshmen from their beds, drench them with water and make them run about campus blindfolded.  Other times the freshmen had their hands tied behind their backs, were again blindfolded, and had soap shoved in their mouths.  One incident in 1906 involving a freshman

Example of a stacked dormitory room

was particularly bad.  The freshman was grabbed by several upperclassmen, had broken eggs rubbed into his scalp, then had his hair chopped off.  They tied a sack over his head and held him in the river until he was able to swim away.  It’s no wonder that hazing was banned on the Michigan Agricultural College campus in 1908.

A lot of pranks evolved around the dormitories.  Students would jam doors imprisoning their classmates in rooms.  Another frequent joke was to dump water out of the window onto the head of a passerby.  The ash pail was thrown down the stairs in another prank.  Probably the most common prank played in the dorms was to stack the furniture.  All the furniture and belongings in a room were piled up in a corner and the room was essentially trashed.  The dormitories had such a bad reputation that there was actually a recommendation at one point in time to close them down and have all students live off campus.

Faculty were not exempt from student pranks.  Students would conduct a Night

Samuel Johson

MAC Professor Samuel Johnson

Shirt Parade.  They would dress up in their pajamas and serenade the faculty members who lived in Faculty Row.  This was considered a benign prank and usually played on faculty who were friendly with the students.  However, students did play pranks on faculty they did not like.  In the 1880s, students were not happy with the way Professor Samuel Johnson conducted his practical agriculture classes.  To express their displeasure, students stacked the furniture in Johnson’s classroom, they locked the door and sealed the keyhole with plaster of Paris, and they tied a Shropshire lamb to his podium.  Johnson did eventually leave MAC, but it was infighting amongst the faculty that led to his leaving, not the pranks of the students.

What do you think of these early campus pranks?  Are you surprised the early students were so rowdy?





Archives at the Haunted Aud

20 10 2009

This coming weekend the student theatre group MSU S.P.A.M. (Society for Performers and Arts Managers) are hosting “Haunted Aud,” a haunted house fundraiser near the MSU Auditorium on the Fairchild Side.  The event will take place on Saturday, October 24 from 8pm-12am and Sunday, October 25 from 7pm-12am.   The cost of admission is $5 and funds will be used to send senior actors to New York City in the spring for a showcase.  Groups will be escorted through the set every 10-15 minutes.

The archives worked with S.P.A.M. to get them some information about the class rivalry, an often violent clash between the freshman and sophomore classes.   The haunted house will feature some of the class rivalry posters, which have violent and gory images used to incite the opposing class.   Archivist Portia Vescio did a brief interview for S.P.A.M talking about the class rivalry and some early hazing incidents on campus.  Parts of the interview may be featured in Haunted Aud.

Example of a Class Rivalry Poster
Example of a Class Rivalry Poster







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