Greek Life at GW
From GW Encyclopedia
“Greek Life at The George Washington University and Columbian College goes back nearly 150 years. In 2008, GW will celebrate the sesquicentennial of the chartering of the Washington City Rho Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the first fraternity on campus. During the 19th Century, eight fraternities and one sorority were chartered at Columbian College.”
“Pi Beta Phi was the first chartered women's fraternity in 1889. The use of the word sorority did not occur until the early days of the 20th century.” 
Original Chartering Dates of GW Fraternities and Sororities can be found on the Greek Affairs Web Page. 
By Amy Stempler, July 12, 2001
Greek life at the college dates from the civil war era. One of the chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon was the connecting link between pre and post civil war fraternities. Several other fraternities date to the “College Hill” campus.
By the late 1880s, Columbian University (in 1873) was centralized in its downtown location (15th and H Streets) where the Department of Law and Medicine were already located. By the early 1900s the President of GW was Charles W. Needham. President Needham, as a matter of university policy, increased the emphasis on campus fraternities. As a result the number increased. Fraternities included Kappa Sigma, the Alpha Eta Chapter (located at Fraternity Hall, 1420 New York Avenue). Its Yell was: Rah! Ra! Rah!, Crescent and Star! Vive la! Vive La!, Kappa Sigma! There were also Psi Omega, Beta Gamma Chapter (established 1903 with their chapter house at 1107 G Street) and the Omega Alpha Sorority founded in 1902 at the University. Women were first admitted to the University in the 1880s.
In 1904, by an Act of Congress, Columbian University became The George Washington University. University President Charles H. Stockton provided guidance, reorganizing the University in 1911 to reduce expenditures and selling property to increase revenue. Sororities included Pi Beta Phi (Chapter Rooms: 2024 G Gtreet) and Chi Omega (Chapter Rooms: 2024 G Street).
Through the urging of Dr. Stockton, the Department of Arts and Sciences was moved in 1912 to 2023 G Street. By the time the University was relocated to Foggy Bottom the fraternities house were dispersed, mainly located around Dupont Circle. The Inter-fraternity Association was established in 1910. Fraternities on campus included: Delta Tau Delta, chapter house, 1700 15th Street, NW and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, chapter house, 2024 G Street. Sororities included Chi Omega (chapter apartment, 1538 I Street) and Sigma Kappa. By 1912 the Pan Hellenic Society had held its third annual banquet and GW co-eds participated in the Woman's Suffrage Parade.
With the move to Foggy Bottom Greek life served as the major social and community outlet for the student body. Formal Greek dances (black tie) occurred until well into the 1930s and were held at places such as the Mayflower and Willard Hotels. During the teens and twenties four Jewish fraternities and sororities were formed at GW. The Phi Alpha Fraternity was founded at The George Washington University on October 3, 1914. Its Chapter house was located at 1872 California Street, NW in Washington, D.C. The Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority was founded at Hunter College on November 26, 1913. The Sorority became a Kappa Chapter at GW and was installed September 20, 1924. Two other Jewish fraternities active at GW were Alpha Epsilon Pi and Tau Epsilon Phi.
With the end of the Second World War, the social makeup of the student body changed. Many students, who had entered the service had very little exposure to Greek life. However, by the 1950s a strong Greek presence returned to campus.
“In the language of the campus, a ‘Greek’ was a man or woman who belonged to a fraternity or sorority.” By the mid-50's, there were fourteen fraternities and eleven sororities on campus. Each fraternity had a chapter house, while the sororities had apartments on campus.
By the late 60s there were twelve national sororities and twelve national fraternities organized on the campus. Each of the twelve national sororities were represented by two delegates to the Panhellenic Council. Twelve national fraternities were recognized on the campus. One popular Greek activity was the annual Goat Show, which was a skit by each of the pledge classes of the sororities presented in Lisner Auditorium. In 1968, the student government debated the Human Relations Act. The act was intended to enforce non-discrimination in campus organizations. When passed on May 10, 1968, it required recognized campus organizations to “have a provision in their constitution or bylaws that membership shall not be restricted on the basis of race, religion, or national origin”. “Many sororities were crippled by the act, and in September of 1968, Kappa Delta became the first of ten sororities that would shut their doors during the next three years. Four of the twelve GW fraternities would follow suit. But the end of segregated student organizations marked the beginning of a new chapter of pride in black culture for many GW students.” (
In the early 1980s Greek organizations included Alpha Phi Delta (men), Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. (women), Phi Sigma Kappa (men), Kappa Kappa Gamma (women) and six other Greek fraternities and sororities.
By the late 1980s and 1990s Greek life took another upturn. By 1996, the GW population substantially grew, with 25 percent of the freshman class rushing. The Greek population was also holding a semi-formal dance in the fall and a formal dance in the spring. Greek week had established itself as a major activity on campus. An integral part of sorority life was the Big-Little Sister program. Within this program a pledge was given a “big sister” to help the pledge adjust to college and sorority life.
Today, activities such as the All-Sorority Tea, a campus tradition, Greek Week and GW’s participation in nationally-held events enhance Greek life at the campus. At GW, Greek Week is a fun filled, exciting week in which all of the fraternities and sororities compete against one another through intense, yet fun activities. Kappa Sig lies at the heart of the week. The weeks activity included "Muppets Take GW" and “Lawn Party on Quad.”
Photographic Credit: GW University Historical Photographs Collection
Author or Source: Amy Stempler; From Strength to Strength, Hatchet, Student Handbooks, Office of Greek Life at GW 
Document Location: University Archives
Date Added to Encyclopedia: January 24, 2007
Prepared by: G. David Anderson
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