For students at Bloomsburg State Normal School, social life revolved around campus literary societies. When those organizations dissolved in 1923, their place was quickly filled by chapters of professional and honorary fraternities. It took much longer, however, for the concept of social fraternities and sororities to be accepted.
What would become Bloomsburg’s first social fraternity began in 1963 when a dozen students, sensing the need for an improved spirit on campus, proposed establishing the Social Improvement Organization (SIO). Members of SIO, advised by history faculty member Robert “Doc” Warren, went before the Bloomsburg State College Council on Oct. 26, 1964, to share ideas they thought would convince students to remain on campus over the weekends and the belief that similar organizations would follow. The council granted probationary status and, after a constitution was OK’d the following spring, President Harvey A. Andruss gave final approval, establishing SIO as an official campus organization on May 19, 1965.
By the start of the fall semester, SIO’s membership had doubled and, on Oct. 28, members informed the Faculty Fraternity Committee of their desire to transition into the school’s first social fraternity. This request started a months-long process and, after much discussion, Dean of Students Paul Riegel, fraternity committee chair, sent a memo to Andruss and the Board of Trustees on March 1, 1966, recommending that social fraternities be permitted on campus.
Support was broad, as dem-onstrated by an editorial published in the May 20 issue of the student newspaper, Maroon & Gold. The editorial touched on a number of campus issues, including parking and student apathy, and backed the establishment of social fraternities. At their May 27 meeting, the Board of Trustees gave official approval for social fraternities to begin in the fall semester.
Wor k continued on revising SIO’s constitution, which the College Council approved on Oct. 10. After a few revisions, Acting President John Hoch gave final approval on Nov. 4, 1966, and the first social fraternity on campus, Sigma Iota Omega, became a reality.
As expected, additional fraternities and sororities were created and applied for recognition during the 1966-67 academic year. Each was required to have a faculty adviser, meet academic standards, and prohibited from discriminating. Only local organizations, without national affiliation, were permitted.
Beta Sigma Delta was the second fraternity to be approved and placed on probationary status by the College Council, followed by four others through March. The first sorority, Delta Epsilon Beta, was recognized on Feb. 17, 1967, with 23 initial members. The reasons given for its organization were similar to those of the fra-ternities: to promote the college’s general welfare, derive mutual benefits from the bonds of sisterhood, and provide greater opportunities for social and moral development.
In addition to the individual chapters, an Inter-Fraternity Council was created to govern and guide activities. Composed of representatives from each social fraternity, the IFC was approved by the College Council on Feb. 27, with the Inter-Sorority Council established the following year.
Extracurricular activities sponsored by the fraternities in 1966-67 included parties, picnics, hayrides, a tutoring service, and a Battle of the Bands. Fundraisers, such as film screenings, a book exchange, and sale of athletic buttons, netted more than $550. The first official rush period to recruit pledges took place at the end of September 1967, and Greek Week, which became an annual inter-fraternity/inter-sorority event, was first held in spring 1968. The ban on off-campus housing was lifted in 1969.
Today, 28 Greek organizations — 12 sororities and 16 fraternities — enhance campus life through a mixture of social and philanthropic activities. As they did in their earliest days, fraternities and sororities offer lifetime opportunities for friendship, service to the community, leadership and scholarship. •