Illuminati Conspiracy Archive

Tombs and Taps: An inside look at Yale's Fraternities, Sororities and Societies

Would you like to associate yourself with prestigious institutions? Are you interested in joining the “old boys’ network” in search of a more rewarding career? Are you looking for close-knit friendships? Of course you are. These desires, however, do not make you special. Indeed, at Yale, they are almost a prerequisite for matriculation.

Yale has presciently developed many avenues for the pursuit of prestige, networks, and friendship. In the early 1700s, the daily roll call on campus was conducted in descending order of the prominence of one’s family. In 1738, students took matters into their own hands, when a group formed a debating society called “Crotonia,” the first known society on campus with selective membership.

Other students soon realized that the Crotonians were on to something, and two additional debating societies, Linonia and Brothers in Unity, sprang up in 1753 and 1768. Linonia and Brothers became the twin towers of student social and intellectual life.

Change, however, was on the horizon. At the College of William and Mary in 1776, eight years after the foundation of Brothers in Unity, a secret honor society named Phi Beta Kappa was founded. Chapters soon spread to other colleges, including Yale in 1780. Membership in Phi Beta Kappa was based upon academic excellence, but at Yale, Linonia and Brothers continued to garner greater interest.

All of this changed in the early 19th century, when nation-wide sentiment rallied against secret societies. In the early 1830’s, student and faculty opposition to secrecy led Yale’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa to eliminate secrecy from its proceedings. So, in 1832, a group of members of the Class of 1833, led by Alphonso Taft and future valedictorian William Russell, formed a society nicknamed “The Scull and Bones,” modeled after the old Phi Beta Kappa and set up as a chapter of a German academic society.

Taft and Russell had recognized a central insight into human nature: students are far more captivated by private organizations than public ones and, by extension, secret organizations more than open ones. Naturally, Yale students burned with curiosity about this new society, and climbed over each other to get in. Yale soon enjoyed a proliferation of senior societies, such as Scroll & Key, which was founded after a dispute arose as to whom Bones should tap in 1842. Gradually, the social power of Linonia and Brothers receded, and the debating society system ultimately evolved into the Yale Union (now called the Yale Political Union).

In short order, a system of junior fraternities arose in order to improve one’s chances of being tapped into a senior society. Then followed sophomore societies and even freshman fraternities. These underclassman societies, which usually adopted Greek-letter names, became the basis of the modern American fraternity system.

The junior fraternities-in order of prestige and seniority, Alpha Delta Phi (“A.D.,” 1836), Psi Upsilon (“Psi U.,” 1839), Delta Kappa Epsilon (“Deke,” 1844), Zeta Psi (1889), and Beta Theta Pi (1892)-became the central intersections of Yale’s social scene. Their power and wealth led them to build windowless “tombs” much like those of the senior societies. A Yale man’s career, it was felt, was determined by his social affiliations, and the rituals of bids and taps superseded romantic courtship in emotional importance. After the Civil War, the faculty attempted to ban sophomore societies, but new ones were formed under the guise of debating clubs.

Though the Yale societies were élitist by definition, they were egalitarian in an important way. Unlike the eating clubs at Princeton and the final clubs at Harvard, Yale’s senior societies traditionally placed their greatest emphasis upon achievement in college. A scholarship boy from rural Pennsylvania had a fair shot at senior glory at Yale; at Princeton and Harvard, coming from the right familial and boarding school lineage was of greater importance. (Yale, too, had its eating clubs, but all save Mory’s died out by the 1930s.)

Back in the 19th century, Yale College was split into two parts: the Academical Department, or “Ac,” for liberal arts students, and the Sheffield Scientific School, or “Sheff,” for scientists and engineers. (Then, as now, science majors were second-class citizens on campus but made first-class incomes later in life. The Sterling oil fortune, for example, was derived from geological innovations at the Sheff.)

Sheff students, not wanting to be left out of the society fun, founded their own “final clubs,” so named because they were intended to be one’s final social destination: one was tapped as a freshman or sophomore and committed to that society for the remainder of college. (At Harvard, as noted above, a similar system developed, which remains in existence there today.) The Sheff’s final clubs included the Colony Club (1848) also known as Berzelius, the Cloister (1863) a.k.a. Book & Snake, Franklin Hall (Theta Chi, 1865), St. Anthony Hall (Delta Psi, 1868), York Hall (Chi Phi, 1877), St. Elmo (Delta Phi, 1889), Sachem Hall (Phi Sigma Kappa, 1890), and Vernon Hall (Phi Gamma Delta, 1895).

In the mid-1920s, several of the junior fraternity tombs were demolished in order to construct Sterling Memorial Library. The fraternities then built sparkling new houses (rather than tombs) between York and Park streets. The collection of red-brick Tudor houses became known as “Fraternity Row.“ Prohibition was a great boon to the Row, which became the locus of campus revelry.

The Depression took its toll, however, and the residential college system, instituted in the early 1930s, drastically altered the fortunes of the fraternities. (Indeed, Edward Harkness, a Wolf’s Head alumnus, had endowed the College Plan partly out of disenchantment with the fraternity system.) Residential colleges were themselves luxurious buildings–worlds away from the cramped dormitories of old–and when students were required to join the college meal plan, the fraternities lost their principal revenue stream. In 1933, Book and Snake and Berzelius metamorphosed from Sheff final clubs into senior societies, while the other Sheff clubs sold their halls to Yale. Psi Upsilon, the venerable junior fraternity, renounced its national affiliation and became the Fence Club, while the formerly omnipotent Alpha Delta Phi closed its doors altogether.

After World War II and coeducation, the fraternity system seemed obsolete; only Delta Kappa Epsilon and the Fence Club remained of the old system. George H. W. Bush dc ’48 , a typically, was at home in both Deke, where the jock culture appreciated his baseball prowess, and at the Fence, where his blue-blood Phillipian lineage appealed to their prep culture. In 1973, dke’s tap room on York Street was relinquished to Yale , which converted the building into the Rose Alumni House; a few years later, the Fence Club went defunct. The 1980s saw a resurgence of the campus Greek system; the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, and fraternity films such as Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds and Porky’s increased the popularity of fraternity life.

In the fall of 1984, Yale’s dining hall workers went on strike; as a result, Freshman Commons was shut down. Freshmen, who felt that they were thereby lacking in social outlets with their classmates, began founding new fraternities and re-establishing old ones. In 1985, Yale’s first sorority, a chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, was officially constituted.

Today, the Greek scene is thriving, especially among athletes; it is estimated that three-quarters of all fraternity members are on a varsity team. Fraternity and sorority members, by and large, tend to be apolitical, although certain fraternities lean to the right side of the political spectrum. While they often lack the intellectualism of other campus groups, they tend to have the best parties. (The biggest parties on campus, however, tend to be sponsored instead by residential colleges: the Morse-Stiles Casino Night, the Silliman Safety Dance, the Pierson Inferno, and the Timothy Dwight Exotic Erotic.)

Greek life has its critics. Says Nicole Gabona MC ’01, former social chair of Kappa Alpha Theta, “‘Private rapport’ between a female and a fraternity slave becomes the business of not only those two people, but those two people plus sixty clan members. This lack of privacy can cause females to suffer an undeserved feeling of being loose, and this insecurity is only exacerbated when the fraternity males waste their creative minds on thinking up nicknames for women [whom they have become friendly with].”

Indeed, Greek-watchers observe that most Yale women, when they’ve found out what goes on behind their backs within fraternities, stay away from them. The minority who press on often become “groupies,” getting to know many or all of the brothers in detail. Though fraternities encourage the creation of groupies, they privately harbor little respect for them. Many critics charge that fraternities stamp out all individuality and attract insecure students looking for social direction, but the countervailing argument is that fraternities have a strong sense of cohesion which few groups can match. “I wonder,” asks one fraternity frequenter, “whether the fraternal friendships of brothers are based upon alcohol or actual connections of character.”

Though sorority members have provided Nicole Gabona with her “very best friends,” sorority life also has its pitfalls. “There are a lot of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ with sorority life. The ‘pros’ are the people you meet, the social times, the sense of belonging, and the networking with Greek people at other schools. I can meet a Theta at another school and feel an instant bond with her.”

“One thing that typifies sororities as opposed to frats is that girls are very catty. Ergo, sororities are a breeding ground for competitive, judgmental, intrusive gossip sessions. I would say a decent portion of girls in my sorority have had a phobia of food at some point. While this is not the fault of a sorority, I think that they have the potential to make one to look at the superficial, whether it is dress, popularity, or weight. This is not to diss on sororities at all; it is merely to say that you can’t get to the golden center of a stone without having to drill through some of the muck along the way.”

Freshman are able to join, or “rush,” fraternities and sororities in the fall, but our advice is to have some patience; unless you are absolutely certain that you want to join a particular fraternity, you are better off exploring your options.

Senior societies, most of which are now co-ed, are also on the upswing. Tap Day–the eagerly anticipated afternoon in mid-April when juniors learn if they have been selected for senior societies–is no longer the Old Campus circus it was in the 19th century. It used to be that the results of Tap Day were written up on the front page of the New York Times and published in the Yale Banner. Today, societies are secretive about their membership lists. Thanks to this secrecy, left-wingers who have spent their Yale careers attacking the patriarchal capitalist hegemony can discreetly enjoy the benefits of a society without being accused of hypocrisy.

Along with the eight “above-ground” societies, there are rumored to be as many as 20 “underground” societies. The underground societies lack endowments and buildings, and therefore carry little to no prestige. Often underground societies keep no record of their alumni; only other members in a class are known to each other. However, they can be useful outlets for the formation of close friendships.

Our most important piece of advice? Don’t fall into the trap of claiming to despise the society system. Every year, there are countless Yale students who rail against the élitism of the societies. These critics are nearly always hypocrites because, if offered a tap, they would generally take it in a heart-beat. Further, many critics tend to be those who have either been rejected by societies or have no chance of being tapped in the first place.

The society system is not without flaws, but that its critics tend to be motivated more by envy than by thoughtfulness. It goes without saying that one can lead a productive life at Yale without being involved in any of these organizations. Senior societies and Greek letter organizations are extremely time-consuming, so only commit to them if you are convinced that pursuing their activities should be your highest priority.

Here begins Light & Truth’s Guide to Society Life at Yale:


Senior Societies

Among the most significant influences in modern senior society life is the phenomenon of “lines,” whereby a member of a certain team, fraternity, or club will pass his tap down to his favorite junior from the same organization. Not all societies are ruled by this phenomenon, but some are. Yale’s societies also work hard to replicate the diversity of the student body.

The most common element of society life is the biographical session: each week, often during the spring semester, one member of the group will get up and tell his life story, with particular focus on romantic history. In addition, some societies hold debates similar to those of the Political Union parties, along with literary readings. All of the societies followed Bones’ lead in selecting 15 members a year, and in holding their events on Thursday and Sunday evenings. At a certain time of night, after these weekly meetings have adjourned, places like Naples Pizza overflow with society members unwinding.


The Big Two

The Big Two are distinguished by their seriousness of purpose; both groups tend to stay away from the sillier elements of other societies (for example, you will never see a Bones or Keys member walking in a black cloak, howling at the top of his lungs).


Skull & Bones (1832) - 64 High Street

Corporate name: Russell Trust Association
FY 1999 Assets: $4,133,246
FY 1999 Income: $759,061
1991 Value of Tomb: $716,000
Prominent alumni: William Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush
Extracurricular profile: Afro-Am House, Dwight Hall, Women’s Center, La Unidad Latina, Whiffenpoofs, Dramat, Football, Crew

Skull & Bones is the oldest, and by far the most prestigious, of the senior societies; The Skulls, a recent film on the society, will only further its notoriety. The other societies are obsessed with discovering its secrets; some societies even have rooms dedicated to Bones memorabilia.

In actuality, Bones is neither as sinister nor as influential as it is made out to be. Traditionally, Bones selects the fifteen juniors at Yale who have most distinguished themselves in extracurricular accomplishment. In recent years, however, outside observers suggest that there has been an increasing emphasis on finding people who have the personal qualities to build strong friendships with one another.

Skull & Bones was one of the last of the societies to admit women and the manner in which this was done led to a serious rift in the society. Bones is the only society with a summer home: a private island getaway on the St. Lawrence River between New York state and Ontario.


Scroll and Key (1844) - 444 College Street

Corporate name: Kingsley Trust Association
FY 1999 Assets: $6,010,084
FY 1999 Income: $236,317
1991 Value of Tomb: $525,000
Prominent alumni: Dean Acheson, Cole Porter, Cornelius Vanderbilt
Extracurricular profile: Afro-Am House, LGBT Co-op, Chinese-American Students Association, Dramat, Hockey, Softball

Scroll and Key was founded when Skull & Bones uncharacteristically tapped most of its delegation from Psi Upsilon rather than Alpha Delta Phi. The neglected A.D.’s proceeded to found their own organization. Scroll and Key is, in monetary terms, the wealthiest of the senior societies, but lives constantly in the shadow of its elder cousin. Traditionally, Keys has drawn its members from the New York Social Register; in recent years, however, they have moved more in the direction of a Bones-style system, with extra weight placed upon extracurricular accomplishment.


The Sheff Societies

The surviving Sheff societies became senior societies when the residential college system was introduced in the ’30s. They therefore have a strong tradition in the sciences. A third Sheff society, St. Anthony Hall, lives on as a final club (see below).


Berzelius (1848) - 78 Trumbull Street

Corporate Name: Colony Foundation
FY 1999 Assets: $1,062,684
1991 Value of Tomb: $517,500

Berzelius, which was once known as the Colony Club, is said to be having serious financial problems; for such an old organization, it has a comparatively small endowment. While it fashioned itself to be the “Bones” of the Sheff societies, with a serious mission and purpose, Berzelius is now known as a “party” society and bears only formal resemblance to Bones and Keys.


Book and Snake (1863) - Grove Street

Corporate Name: Stone Trust Corporation
FY 1999 Assets: $2,474,165
1991 Value of Tomb: $675,000

Book and Snake, a.k.a. the Cloisters, is reputed to harbor a high proportion of athletes and fraternity and sorority members. They are also rumored to hold wild, orgiastic parties.


Et Alia...

The remaining four senior societies lack the prestige of the others, but Yale does not lack for socially ambitious students, and so they always fill their quotas. Some are old and troubled; others are young and promising.


Wolf’s Head (1883) - 214 York Street

Corporate Name: Phelps Association
FY 1999 Assets: $3,504,376
FY 1999 Income: $308, 985
1991 Value of Tomb: $675,000

Wolf’s Head is the third-oldest senior society (the Sheff societies were originally final clubs), and was created when, as one member put it, “a certain limited number were firmly convinced that there had been an appalling miscarriage of justice in their individual omission from the category of the elect”; i.e., Bones and Keys. Wolf’s Head possesses one of the younger buildings of the senior societies, as it moved from its old haunt on Prospect in the early 30s. It is also in the process of beginning an expanded capital campaign, primarily to refurbish its York St. manse.


Elihu (1903) - Elm Street

Corporate Name: Elihu Club, Inc.
FY 1997 Assets: $1,879,353
FY 1997 Income: $249,502

If you receive an invitation to interview with Elihu sometime during your junior year, don’t be flattered. Elihu invites every member of the junior class to participate in its interview process. Elihu has carved out a niche as the most left-wing of Yale’s senior societies; one whiff of that time you went to a College Republicans rally, and you will never hear from Elihu again. Elihu is the only senior society whose building has actual windows one can see through. All of these features make Elihu the most accessible of the senior societies; as a result, it is among the least prestigious.


Manuscript (1952) - Elm Street

Corporate Name: Wrexham Trust
FY 1999 Assets: $520,115
FY 1999 Income: $79,575

Manuscript has the ugliest house of all the societies: a tiny, modernist shack designed by Yale architect King-lui Wu. However, in the case of Manuscript you should not judge a book by its cover. As one of the youngest societies, it will often lose out on the most prominent candidates to older groups, but their selection system limits the cronyism that befalls other societies. It is rumored that their program is more substantial than the average society fare and the quality of the membership speaks highly for their future. Manuscript has an interesting selection system: faculty and alumni are involved in recommending and selecting candidates. This limits the degree to which lines and favoritism control the tapping process.


Mace & Chain - Audubon Street

Mace & Chain was reestablished recently by an old alumnus who longed to see his old society flourish again. It is said that they have substantial financial backing from alumni. Though its mission and policies are not well understood, observers say that Mace & Chain has done a good job of tapping high quality students. Mace & Chain conducts its activities in an apartment on Audubon Street.


Fraternities

Yale fraternities, unlike their sisterly counterparts, do not have an umbrella organization such as an Inter-Fraternity Council to guide their rush activities. As a result, fraternity rush is a free-for-all, with each group holding its own events. In the rush process, the fraternities throw many rush parties in order to convince the freshman that he is at home. At the end of the rush process, all the “rushes” attend the house “smoker.” Each rush must speak to the brothers of the house, trying to convince them to give him a bid. If he earns a bid, the freshman becomes a “pledge.” The pledge then must endure a traditional amount of toil, such as cleaning the house after parties. Many of the fraternities engage in mild hazing, state law notwithstanding. Delta Kappa Epsilon, for example, is famous for “Butthole Week,” in which its new pledges walk around campus, unwashed, performing degrading tasks. Pledge periods vary in length and difficulty among fraternities. The last week of the pledge period is called “Hell Week,” and brothers teach pledges about the virtues of suffering. Pledges then become members in full.

Throughout the year, the fraternities host formal events such as dances. They regularly attend Mory ‘s, though they have acquired a reputation for vandalism there. They also hold tail-gates at all home football games. The popular major among fraternity members is economics, for that curriculum has become progressively easier at Yale over the last few years. As part of the pledge process, many pledges attend economics lectures, collect homework assignments, and compile lecture notes. Fraternity members, according to observers, tend not to have specific career ambitions, so they end up on Wall Street. Yale fraternity members, even those with low grades, can take advantage of their strong network of connections at second-tier investment banks such as Lehman Brothers, J.P. Morgan, and Chase.


The Old Guard

The Old Guard includes four of the five traditional junior fraternities, which dominated Yale’s social scene and guarded the gates of the senior societies for socially ambitious Yale men. All of these fraternities are now four-year societies which are open to freshmen.


Alpha Delta Phi (1836) - 23-25 Lake Place

A. D. was the oldest of the old junior fraternities, and therefore the most prestigious. Most of the members of Skull and Bones were drawn from its ranks. The modern Alpha Delta Phi, reconstituted in 1992, is heavily populated by lacrosse players, and is known for its annual Funnel Fest party. Its pledges are, among other things, expected to return punts on Old Campus, in the nude.


Delta Kappa Epsilon (1844) - Lake Place

Deke was founded when a group of sophomores were not tapped by the two existing junior fraternities. Deke is the only fraternity which has continuously existed since its original incarnation, and is therefore unmatched from a standpoint of tradition. In mid-century, when Deke and the Fence Club stood alone as the only fraternities on campus, Deke attracted many of Yale’s leading campus figures, many of whom became prominent alumni. Nationally, Deke alumni include four U.S. presidents.

Today, Deke is the bastion of armpit-scratching masculinity; offensive linemen and baseball players are its staples. Deke hosts Tang, the annual inter-college drinking competition, and the Mortician’s Ball at Halloween. Deke owns two houses, both on Lake Place, and is the largest fraternity, both in the number and the weight of its members.


Zeta Psi (1889) - 29 Whalley Avenue

Zeta Psi has a large contingent of basketball and football players; its house, near the intersection of Dixwell and Whalley Avenues, is in the worst location of any fraternity house. Like Alpha Delta Phi, Zeta Psi went into a period of abeyance and was reconstituted in 1990. Their annual parties, the Purple Cow and Buffet Bash, remain popular nonetheless.


Beta Theta Pi (1892) - 36 Lynwood Place

Beta Theta Pi was originally founded as a four-year fraternity, like all fraternities are now, became a junior society in 1906, and later went defunct in the great fraternity wipe-out of the ‘30s. Reconstituted in 1992, Beta has traditionally attracted a large number of swimmers, though this delegation has diminished somewhat in recent years. Beta owns two interconnected houses, making it a popular hangout in the winter months. One fraternity observer describes Beta brothers as “pretty reclusive and cliquish, but good guys.”


The Nouveaux Riches

Though the Nouveaux Riches lack the history of their Old Guard competitors, they have more than made up for this deficiency by attracting wealthy students and by setting up in an attractive location. Both of these societies give the Old Guard a run for its money.


Sigma Alpha Epsilon (1986) - 35 High Street

Though Sigma Alpha Epsilon does not have a long history at Yale, it has arguably become the premier fraternity at Yale. Its house, on High Street, is universally considered to be the most attractive of the Greek organizations. Its members are widely considered to be the most attractive to women as well. (Some Greek-watchers feel, however, that SAE members are excessively aggressive in their pursuit of feminine company.) SAE is often characterized as a group of “rich preppy-boy legacies” and rowers, though those two groups heavily overlap. SAE is also known for its weekly parties held at 1:00 a.m. each Thursday night, parties which were temporarily suspended due to a series of arrests last fall. We here at Light & Truth hope the Man won’t keep them down too long.


Sigma Nu (1985) - 37 High Street

Sigma Nu’s house is adjacent to SAE and the two fraternities often collaborate on social events. Sigma Nu is heavily populated by members of non-jock but preppy sports like golf, soccer, and tennis.


And the Rest...

The Middle Class fraternities lack the élite social cachet of the other groups, but they each contribute something unique to the fraternity system. They are quintessential niche organizations: carrying high appeal for certain segments of the Yale community but garnering less college-wide interest.


Sigma Chi (1984) - 33 Lynwood Place

Sigma Chi was the first fraternity to be constituted as part of the major fraternity revival of the mid-80s. Sigma Chi was originally founded as a social arm of the Tory Party of the Political Union, but as the tp dwindled in size, the Tory influence was eventually replaced with that of the Progressive Party. Sigma Chi is perhaps the least athletics-oriented of the fraternities. Sigma Chi is also known for the cultural and ethnic diversity of its members.


Lambda Upsilon Lambda (1991)

Also known as “La Unidad Latina,” Lambda Upsilon Lambda is a Latino-oriented fraternity. It is best known for its bizarre pledging ritual.


Sororities

Sorority rush at Yale is organized by the Pan-Hellenic Council, which consists of the three campus sororities. (A fourth sorority, Jewish-oriented Alpha Epsilon Phi, has virtually folded.) Rush events are held jointly by the three sororities, and each sorority is limited to 40 members in order to ensure that none of them go under.

Pan-Hellenic rules prohibit sororities from recruiting students outside of the official process, and from bad-mouthing their competitors. By and large, the sororities are good about hewing to these rules, allowing the rushing process to be much more collegial than it is elsewhere.


Kappa Alpha Theta (1985) - High Street

Kappa Alpha Theta’s first chapter- in 1870, the nation’s first sorority was formed when a group of militant feminists entered previously all-male Indiana Asbury University (now Depauw University) and were not allowed to join a fraternity. Theta was also the first sorority at Yale, and is generally considered to be the most prestigious and the most blonde.

Theta is also seen as the most social of the sororities; they are the most likely to be seen at nightclubs or throwing parties. Theta has acquired a reputation, fairly or not, for “excessive friendliness;” an entry in the Yale Herald’s loutish Valentine‘s Day issue thanked Theta “ from the men of Yale for being so easy. “Kappa Alpha Theta is the only sorority with an actual house on High Street and is credited with the most polished recruiting operation of the sororities.


Kappa Kappa Gamma (1987)

The members of Kappa are diverse in background and interests; this can be a strength and a weakness, for Kappa lacks the strong culture and cohesiveness that the others sororities possess. Kappa has, in past years, struggled to maintain a viable size; the Pan-Hellenic Council’s rule restricting each sorority to 40 members has helped Kappa by limiting the growth of its rivals.

Prestige-wise, Kappa remains in the second tier, behind Kappa Alpha Theta and Pi Beta Phi. Male Greek-watchers seem to view Kappa sisters as generally less attractive than their Theta and Pi Phi counterparts. Kappa has an apartment in the Kelly House at Crown and Temple Streets.


Pi Beta Phi (1989) - 228 College Street

Pi Beta Phi vies with Kappa Alpha Theta for the title of most attractive sorority. Though Pi Phi is a highly social group, it is seen as less social than Theta. Like Theta, Pi Phi has a strong internal culture and is often successful at recruiting the students it is looking for. Their apartment, though in the best location of the three (above Caffé Adulis on College Street), is used only for private parties. Pi Phi is reputed to have a higher concentration of athletes than the other sororities.


Other Societies


St. Anthony Hall (1869) - College Street

Similarly to Elihu, St. Anthony Hall invites the entire sophomore class to rush for membership. St. Anthony, the club’s patron saint, was a third-century Egyptian who founded the tradition of Christian monasticism. St. A’s, alone among the old Sheff societies, has retained the traditional “final club” structure. St. A’s is therefore part (co-ed) fraternity, partly a debating society, and partly a secret society. Students who join St. A’s are required to turn down taps from senior societies and bids from fraternities.

At some point, the Yale chapter of St. A’s revoked its affiliation with the national Delta Psi / St. Anthony Hall organization; its present relationship with the national organization is nebulous. The Yale chapter of St. A’s, at one time, was reputed to possess a certain kind of élan. Observed The Official Preppy Handbook in 1981, “[St. A’s] appeals to the ‘cool element’ of Preppies at Yale; this means Preppies who don’t iron their shirts. It isn’t rowdy: parties there conform to the intellectual self-image Yalies hold dear.” Today, however, the club is stocked with eccentric types whose connection to a third-century monk is puzzling at best.


Elizabethan Club (1911) - College Street

FY 1999 Assets: $1,836,574
FY 1999 Income: $212,806

The Elizabethan Club, modeled after the Century Association of New York City, is in theory a gathering place for Yale’s student and faculty literati. Like the top senior societies, the Lizzie has a million-dollar endowment, along with a priceless collection of rare first editions of Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, and others. William F. Buckley, Jr. dc ’50 is among the Lizzie’s most famous members; Cole Porter was rejected from the club, leading him to write a satirical song about “the most exclusive club in College.” (The Lizzie later reversed its decision.)

As with a traditional gentlemen’s club, the Lizzie has an admissions committee; to become a member, one must be proposed and seconded by current club members. The Lizzie is highly selective; it rejects a significant number of its applicants. Candidacies can also fall victim to internal politics and grudge matches. Freshmen are not eligible for membership; thereafter, 15 members of each class may be selected.

Tea is served every afternoon during the academic year, but non-members are only allowed in the club from Thursday to Sunday. Dues are $10 for life, which means that a lot of undergraduates who get into the Club never have to make a serious commitment to it. As a result, the Lizzie suffers from a lack of undergraduate vibrancy. Graduate students and faculty members play a significant role at the Lizzie, however, and often make up for undergraduate delinquents.

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