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The history of fraternities and sororities at Southern Utah university, 1923-1982

Jacob H Johnson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The history of American college social fraternities and sororities is complex and multifaceted. The dominant historical narrative neglects the existence of social Greek-letter organizations at junior colleges. Beginning in 1923, the Branch Agricultural College, a public junior college located in Cedar City, Utah, endorsed and supported the creation of a social Greek-letter community. By the late 1940s, the community had swelled to include a majority of students enrolled at the College and, through its facilitation of campus activities, contests and competitions, and support for athletics, the Greek community came to dominate social life at the small, rural campus. Beginning in the early 1950s, the fraternity and sorority community experienced significant challenges as student preferences for recreation and entertainment shifted towards individualized pursuits. Although its membership and reputation recovered for a time during the 1960s, the attempt to affiliate with national fraternal organizations introduced new complications and by the end of the 1970s, the Greek community had collapsed. The collapse was not the result of administrative fiat; rather, students stopped joining and supporting the social Greek-letter organizations. Several factors influenced the collapse of the Greek community. In analyzing the demise of fraternities and sororities at the College, the local Greek community was compared to and contrasted with the national fraternal movement. Additionally, the collapse was examined through an environmental framework advanced by student affairs scholars C. Carney Strange and James H. Banning in their work Educating by Design. As dimensions of the environment changed over time, the fraternities and sororities failed to adapt or adapted in the wrong manner. Ultimately, the fraternities and sororities became irrelevant as students chose to pursue other opportunities for involvement and engagement. One of the most significant contributors to the community's decline was the conflict that emanated from the homogeneity of the student population and its preference for social standards espoused by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Education history

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Jacob H, "The history of fraternities and sororities at Southern Utah university, 1923-1982" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3617469.