Excerpted from James F. Willis, Southern Arkansas University: The Mulerider School’s Centennial History, 1909-2009, pp. 317-320).
The Black Students Association, like other older student and departmental groups, declined, as African American counselor Alvin Brannon pointed out, due to the growth of Greek organizations. The Greeks attracted students who might have played active roles elsewhere.
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All the Greeks raised money, performed volunteer work for charitable cause, and made other contributions to society. SAU’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the fraternity of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in 1990 led the first campus march honoring King’s birthday, an event that would became an annual tradition.
Some fraternities continued hazing long after national society guidelines and state law in 1983 forbade the practice. In spite of student affairs personnel’s warnings, surreptitious hazing went on anyway, causing students’ injuries and organizations’ suspension. In general, however, SAU fraternities were unlike the one portrayed in the popular 1978 movie Animal House. The movie did inspire SAU toga parties, Mr. Tush contests, and Miss Mule pageants; however, campus groups were model societies compared to the film’s Delta House. Antics at the annual Inter-Greek Olympics that began in 1984 (changed to SAU Greek Week in 1989) featured innocent activities like three-legged races and the “Great Greek Canoe Race” at the campus pond. Unlike the Delta House residents, SAU Greeks often made the dean’s list for academic honors.
Greek honor societies gave recognition to high-achieving students. Several new ones were established in these years. The Alpha Honor Society in the late 1970s inducted freshmen and sophomores with high grade point averages and served as a counterpart to Alpha Chi that included only juniors and seniors. For some unknown reason, Alpha Honor Society collapsed after four years. New disciplinary academic honor societies founded at SAU in the years after 1976 included psychology’s Psi Chi (March 11, 1991), social science’s Pi Gamma Mu (November 14, 1991), business’s Sigma Beta Delta (June 21, 1995), and agriculture’s Alpha Tau Alpha (1996). More inclusive academic Greek societies included education’s Phi Delta Kappa (September 14, 1982) and legal studies’ Phi Alpha Delta (April 29, 1987).