There were neither trains nor paved roads; the efficient use of internal combustion and "horseless carriages" was a good 60 years in the future. The nearest "large" cities, Troy and Schenectady across the New York border, together sheltered only 20,000. The Union had about 14.5 million citizens and slaves in 24 states. Andrew Jackson was President and Abraham Lincoln was a young man of twenty five. Canada was firmly under British domination. The modern world as we know it today lay undiscovered and barely dreamed.
Consider those men who founded Delta Upsilon at Williams College, on a crisp November day in 1834. What do they have in common with you? Why has their inspiration thrived for more than 175 years? What role will their principles play in your life? What is the import of a non-secret fraternity based on the Promotion of Friendship, the Development of Character, the Diffusion of Liberal Culture and the Advancement of Justice?
A Premise of Fairness
In the fall of 1834, there arose on the Williams College campus a matter of great concern to the faculty - and to many students as well. The focus of their debate fell on the two secret fraternities on campus; not on their presence, but on their activities. These two societies had conspired to make use of an advantage. Their members, like all men at Williams, wanted to fare admirably in the race for campus honors. However, by use of their secrecy, they had strayed from their earlier, legitimate mission as debating and literary societies, and had become political machines. Their goal was to place their members into high campus offices, whether qualified or not. They had done this effectively.
Faculty members frowned on this trend. It raised previously unheard-of distinctions, jealousies, and animosity where none was needed. They questioned whether the emphasis on campus politics was contrary to the fundamental purposes of the college itself. Does this sound familiar? It may be that some faculty on your campus ask whether the activities of fraternities add to or detract from your college or university. Some students felt the same way. Their sense of justice was offended; they disliked the practice of conferring honors without merit. They longed for an even playing field. They were convinced that the spoils of victory should go to men on merit, men who truly earned their rewards, and not to unqualified men who used political clout to deliver them the prize.
DU's First Meeting
So it was that 20 men from the sophomore and junior classes met to forge a plan of action. They quickly found ten of the best men from the freshman class, and called a meeting for the evening of November 4. Though we would love to know exactly what happened that evening, we cannot; a fire destroyed all the Williams records seven years later. But we know that these 30 men gathered in the Freshman Recitation Room of Old West College, a building that stands today.
They chose a name: The Social Fraternity. "Social" didn't mean entertainment events, as many fraternity men mistakenly believe today. Instead, it was much broader. It meant an interest in life's interactions among people, and how society would better itself through group action.
The secret societies ridiculed the new group, but they knew full well that the Social Fraternity would thrive. And did it ever! Because its aims matched those of the college, the Social Fraternity soon had more than half the men on campus in its ranks - and soon, the first DUs dominated the lists of campus honors. This good idea of a spirited brotherhood based on merit spread rapidly. Within four years, men of similar beliefs set up another group, at Union College in Schenectady. Our Middlebury Chapter was born in 1845; Hamilton, in 1847. More followed: Amherst, Western Reserve, Wesleyan, Vermont, Rochester and Colby. These early groups thrived, powered by their zeal in battling the abuses of secret societies. These seven chapters at the 1852 Convention of the Anti-Secret Confederation came to be known as the "Seven Stars" of the anti-secrecy fight. Thus, they are commemorated in our Coat of Arms, in the Seven Stars you see below the open helmet, for non-secrecy and friendship, and above the balanced scales, for Justice.
An early meeting of four chapters brought these anti-secret groups into an organized fraternity. It was in Troy, N.Y., in November 1847. Williams, Union, Amherst and Hamilton met in Convention, and formally established the Anti-Secret Confederation (ASC). Its Constitution paralleled that of Williams, and the Convention first adopted a member key, bearing the Greek words Ouden Adelon, "Nothing Secret." The Fraternity's colors were set as "old gold on a field of sky-blue."
While other early fraternities fiddled with secret grips and recognition signs, DU was promoting friendship and developing character. While the secret fraternities wasted energy guarding their precious secrets from others, DU fought to advance justice and spread liberal, learned culture. DU had no need for mystic principles shrouded in secret ritual. Our aims were open, honest and direct.