Indiana University Bloomington, DePauw University and Ball State University: these three universities have something in common. Besides being all colleges in Indiana, they all have Greek life systems, unlike the University of Indianapolis.
Vice President of University Mission and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Michael Cartwright said Greek life is not an integral part of the UIndy campus. He said that on the UIndy campus, there hadn’t been strong enthusiasm or strong opposition to having fraternities and sororities in the past.
“I think it’s one of those characteristics or traditions of the university that exists by default,” Cartwright said. “And, it may not always exist that way, but somebody should argue the case and should get the majority opinion, and people should be convinced that it would be a good thing to have… .”
Although UIndy has not had fraternities and sororities in the traditional sense, a few societies have existed in UIndy’s history. Some of these societies relate to a specific interest, such as Alpha Psi Omega, which is part of the National Theater Honor Society. According to Cartwright, the society was formed in the 1930s, and according to the UIndy website, students can be elected to join this society. UIndy has a chapter of the Alpha Psi Omega, titled Gamma Theta.
“[It] was pretty solid among its members, and they actually sponsored plays and were another form of the university’s theater program,” Cartwright said. “So in 1947, for example, Alpha Psi Omega’s production that year was ‘Deep are the Roots’ and it was an anti-racist play that was interracial. There were black and white students in the cast. And so for the time, that would have been quite remarkable.
Literary societies were also once offered on the UIndy campus, such as the sister literary societies Theacaliosia and Zetagathea. According to the university’s yearbook, “The Oracle”, from 1950, these two societies aimed both to develop the character of their members and to perfect their oral and written skills. Two other literary societies, Philalethea and Philoniusea, helped members gain experience in literary productions and speaking before an audience, according to the 1950 yearbook. Other societies related to a specific topic included Sigma Alpha Mu , which was music-centric, and Sigma Zeta, which was science-centric, according to the 1942 and 1945 yearbooks, respectively.
Phi Alpha Epsilon, or the Freshman Honor Society, accepts freshmen who, according to a 1950 yearbook, contribute to campus welfare and demonstrate scholarship. According to the yearbook, to be accepted into the society, the entire faculty would vote on membership.
Although not traditional fraternities and sororities, separate male and female dorms were offered on the UIndy campus. According to a 1965 yearbook, three halls housed male students of varying grade levels, while two halls housed female students.
A 1980 yearbook also included more traditional fraternities and sororities. According to this yearbook, fraternities and sororities offered students a “home away from home” and the formation of friendships. This directory also included mixed dorms such as North Hall and East Hall.
As for why UIndy currently doesn’t have a Greek life, Cartwright said UIndy’s mission of inclusion might play into the reasoning. He said that fraternities and sororities maintain a boundary between who is included in society and who is not, and this mentality goes against the culture of the university.
“…I think one of the issues is exclusivity. People who want to be part of fraternities and sororities want to be chosen and stand out. They don’t want everyone in this group,” Cartwright said. “At Indianapolis University, there’s more of a tradition of egalitarianism, more of a sense that we’re all part of one community, and then these different little groups help contribute to one community.”