The Case of Two Different Fraternities of the Same Name

5 04 2009

So, I’ll open up this topic by saying that while some of the work is my own, a lot of the research was done by a friend of mine  named A.C., so I’ll start by giving him credit for going through some of the research and sharing it with me so that it could be published onto this blog.

First of all, the case is really old. This dates back to over one hundred years ago, in the 1890s. The fraternity in question is the Alpha Zeta fraternity on Thurston Avenue. According to their website, the Cornell Chapter was established in 1901.

Then we have the following article from a Daily Sun blurb in 1890:


That’s discrepency number one. Number two is that the current Alpha Zeta at Cornell is a co-ed aggie house. There’s nothing about being limited to western hemisphere non-European speakers of Spanish and Portugese (essentially, Latin America).

The following is a list of fraternities on Cornell Campus published in the Sun in May 1892:



Apparently, this ethnic Alpha Zeta lived at Cascadilla Place. Also, a few side comments – Huestis Street is now College Avenue, women lived in Sage College and as a result all the sororities were based there, and most of the houses were in the Collegetown-State Street corridor because that was between the campus and the boarding houses in the city where most male students lived.

Now, here’s an excerpt from the e-mail I received from A.C.


“Hello B.,

Here’s some information on the other Alpha Zeta.

From the Cornellian, it was active from January 1st 1890 to at least 1893.
It likely ended in 1894 when their youngest members graduated and they did
not have any new initiates.”


Therefore, we can make a logical conclusion. In 1890, an Alpha Zeta was founded at Cornell for non-European spanish and portugese speakers, perhaps a predecessor to the modern Latino fraternities of Lambda Upsilon Lambda and Lambda Theta Phi. However, if it closed in the mid 1890s, then there were no more Alpha Zetas in existence, and the name was free to be use. A few years later, the Cornell Chapter of the agricultural Alpha Zeta was opened, and we end up where we are today.

So, with regards to a incident happening where they were both on campus at the same time, that would not have been permitted. However, if there are local fraternities that lay claim to the name before a national tries to move in, then the national would probably have to negotiate a name change for the local.



One response

6 04 2009
Brian Reuwee

Interesting blog. Thanks for the history. The ethnic “Alpha Zeta” would have pre-dated even the first agricultural Alpha Zeta Chapter at Ohio State by seven years. However, it seems unlikely either the Founders or the founding members at Cornell were aware of this coincidence.

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