The Ithaca College Greek System

24 11 2008

So, I’ve always found it vaguely amusing that although officially Ithaca College doesn’t recognize Greek fraternities and sororities, their letters still manage to appear at events like Relay for Life over at Barton Hall.

Officially, IC recognizes three professional music fraternities and a performing arts professional fraternity (which has since closed). In terms of the student population, these are a drop in the bucket when it comes to size and importance/recognition. [1, 2]

Not that it was always this way. Ithaca College once had a thriving if smallish Greek system. Thing is, Delta Kappa fraternity (which had only a few chapters anyway) brought the system down in 1980 with the death of a pledge. According to the book Wrongs of Passage:

A long-standing tradition of forcing pledges to perform calisthenics in a steamroom with the heat turned up high finally claimed a victim, Joseph Parella, 18.”

Which just goes to show you what can happen when people in charge of safety and planning exercise incredibly poor judgement.

Still, the system does exist in some weird underground sort of way. I don’t think they even had houses back when they were recognized, since Ithaca College is an all-residential college (meaning most students live on campus, with the exception of seniors in an apartment perhaps), and they certainly wouldn’t have them. A relatively thorough google search brings up some of the underground fraternities and sororities of IC:

Delta Kappa- Apparently it still exists, though merely as a shadow of its former self. [3]

Pi Lambda Chi

Phi Kappa Sigma

Alpha Epsilon Pi

Phi Iota Alpha (Latino interest fraternity)

Phi Mu Zeta (sorority)

Gamma Delta Pi (sorority) [7]

In conclusion, they’re underground; most of the IC students think they’re stupid or haven’t heard of them; and they barely manage to exist. If anything, this should be a lesson on what can go horribly wrong if due safety and precaution aren’t exercised.










9 responses

25 11 2008
Hamilton F. Smith

We read your post with interest. We’re very proud of the fact that our Gamma Chi chapter and its alumni have been thriving (admittedly a relative term but strong nonetheless) at Ithaca College since 1992.

14 01 2009

I’m disappointed that Greek Life is so unrecognized at IC. There are many wonderful aspects of Greek life that could bring to much to the student body, if the administration would give us a chance. Gamma Delta Pi is sorority that I’m a member of, and we are thriving, despite the school’s ban on Greek Life.

17 01 2009
B. C.

Thanks for your input. I looked up your sorority’s website for fact-checking purposes, and I’ve added it to the entry.

20 03 2009

A lot of these fraternities and sororities date back to when the College was the Ithaca Conservatory… and there was definitely an active frat/sorority scene by the mid-1920s. At that point the campus was downtown. The Greeks did have their own houses in some cases before the school moved up to South Hill in the early 1960s, a lot of students lived in boarding houses or rooms in the community while others lived in dorms downtown or along Buffalo St.

30 04 2009

I was a Delta Kappa back @ I.C. in ’76-80. Even back then (in the dark ages), frats were essentially unrecognized by the administration. We had great parties (all you can drink for $1.00), hot women and lots of horny guys.

13 05 2013

I was in Gamma Delta Pi the very same years (’76-’80) and what happened to Joey should never have happened…it was an incredible tragedy and everyone who was there will never forget it. However, the greek life on and off campus added a tremendous experience to my IC years that I truly feel was very worthwhile. It saddens me that Greek life ended. Those individuals who don’t experience it simply have nothing to base their opinions on and I am grateful I am not among them. Funny thing is, when I was choosing a college, I didnt want a school that had a significant percentage of the student body in a fraternity or sorority. That was my ignorance!

4 05 2009

I’m President of the Epsilon chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, the international music fraternity for women at Ithaca College. I was doing some research about my fraternity when I found this little entry here. I have to say that while the three music fraternities on campus are music-related, they’re not all professional or for music majors (although we are all professionally-oriented and do not haze). Sigma Alpha Iota was chartered in 1909 at the Ithaca Conservatory for Music. Our house was at 440 E. Buffalo St. and we had to move on campus in 1969 and have lived on campus ever since. I myself am not a music major. Sigma Alpha Iota is for women with a sincere interest in music – but she does not need to be a music major, just have taken one music class. Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia (national music fraternity for men) was chartered at the Conservatory in 1901, and accepts men with a love of music. Mu Phi Epsilon is a co-ed, professional, international fraternity for music majors and minors. My point is that while we are music oriented, we do reach out beyond the Ithaca College School of Music, and the official/recognized Greek organizations at Ithaca College each have between 25-40 members now, with nearly 100 members total under the supervision of the Inter-Fraternity Council. I want to clarify, also, that those underground fraternities were not necessarily “banned” from IC, but they refused to meet the standards set forth in the Greek Life Policy and Inter-Fraternity Council constitution, which all had strict rules on housing and, more importantly, hazing. Truthfully, there is now a “no-expansion” clause in the GLP; that being said, the fraternities (and there was also a social sorority that remained on campus in Terrace 1 but eventually died out) remained on campus and recognized we agreed to abide by the articles set forth for us by Ithaca College. While I understand the dedication members of the underground fraternities feel toward their organizations, I think it is necessary for people to understand that blame should not be placed on Ithaca College, but on the alumni of the social fraternities and sororities that, to be blunt, ruined it for members for years to come. Also, many of them (admittedly not all) are still looked down upon because they place ads around campus publicizing rush events that include alcohol. The three fraternities recognized by IC today have completely dry membership recruitment events, strictly for the purpose of education and interaction. Many people at IC feel there is no need to pay extensive amounts of money and join a fraternity/sorority just to drink alcohol (not to say that all the underground Greek organizations do that, but a good number do).

20 08 2009

I was at Ithaca College in 1980, living in Terrace 6B when a Delta Kappa pledge died, drunk and doing exercises in a steam room. Delta Kappa, who had Terrace 6B as their slated housing, bullied all of the us who did not pledge and promoted a culture of drunken meanness. Tragically, another student, a football player nicknamed Rhino who lived in Terrace 6A died while playing frisbee on the grassy area outside the Ter., Apartments.

I left Ithaca, as a sophomore six months later.

26 07 2010

I was surprised to find this blog post, and I’ll admitted appreciative that you’ve done some research and presented dialogue on a subject which, frustratingly, is avoided by the majority of the IC community and the public.

As for the statement that “most of the IC students think they’re stupid or haven’t heard of them”, all I can encourage is for people to use their brains – any organization, wherever it is located, is a group of individuals working towards a common goal. If you don’t personally know any of the individuals, or their goal, then it is not really fair to make a judgement based on a simple attitude passed through rumor, or concretely “yeah, I heard they’re stupid”. It makes more sense to remain neutral until you ever run into a member of the organization yourself.

As for hazing and “frat boy partying”, that’s what the sports teams at Ithaca and the greek houses at Cornell are for, in my anecdotal experience.

Source: Treasurer of the Phi Kappa Sigma chapter at Ithaca College, and just got home from the international organization’s 3-day biennial convention.

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