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Life on the Quads
A Centennial View of
the Student Experience at the
University of Chicago
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Grass Skirt Party, Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, 1952 and Interfraternity Ball, invitation, 1950.

Grass Skirt Party, Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, 1952.

Interfraternity Ball, invitation, 1950. Despite the disruptions in campus life brought by World War II and its aftermath, the Interfraternity Ball remained the highlight of the social calendar.


Interfraternity Sing, 1949.

Interfraternity Sing, 1949. Held in Hutchinson Court and routinely drawing between three and five thousand observers, the annual spring Interfraternity Sing was one of the most popular campus events. Members of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity are seen performing here. Photograph by Stephen Lewellyn (AB 1948).




The Social Scene

By the early 1940s fraternity membership had declined sharply to just ten chapters and 250 pledges. On November 15, 1945, the Hutchins administration in conjunction with the Board of Trustees, after determining that fraternities would "tend to conflict" with the success of the new four-year college, weakened the Greek system further by announcing that fraternity membership would not be permitted for first-and second-year students in the new four-year college, since most of these students would be of high school age.

Third- and fourth-year men, of course, were still able to participate in the fraternity system. But with membership limited to two years instead of the previous four, the stature of the Greek system was diminished.

A steady decline in student interest throughout the 1960s and 1970s reduced the Greek system to a handful of chapters, but these led the fight in their national organizations to remove all discriminatory barriers. During the 1980s, fraternities once again became a focus of interest and remain a lively, if relatively modest, feature of campus life.

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