Psi Upsilon
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Psi Upsilon
Psi Upsilon
Psi Upsilon Coat of Arms.png
FoundedNovember 24, 1833; 186 years ago (1833-11-24)
Union College
United States
Mission statementUnited in friendship, Psi Upsilon members aspire to moral, intellectual and social excellence in themselves as they seek to inspire these values in society
MottoUnto us has befallen a mighty friendship.
Colors  Garnet
FlagPsi Upsilon flag.jpg
FlowerAlstroemeria Lily with garnet and gold coloring[1]
PublicationThe Diamond of Psi Upsilon
Chapters49 total, 27 active[2]
NicknamePsi U
Headquarters3003 East 96th Street
Indianapolis, IN

Psi Upsilon (), commonly known as Psi U, is a North American fraternity,[3] founded at Union College on November 24, 1833. The fraternity reports 50 chapters at colleges and universities throughout North America, some of which are inactive.[2]

Psi Upsilon's foundation provides scholarships and other financial guidance to students throughout the United States and Canada, giving preference to its own members, as well as mentoring and other support services.


"Secret Society Buildings at Yale College", by Alice Donlevy[4] ca. 1880. Pictured are: Psi Upsilon Left center: Skull & Bones (Russell Trust Association). Right center: Delta Kappa Epsilon. Bottom: Scroll and Key (Kingsley Trust Association)

In 1833, five sophomore and two freshman members of the Delphian Society, a local literary group, had become friends and began to meet regularly to exchange essays and engage in literary debate. The seven men thus founded Psi Upsilon on the evening of November 24, 1833. The first constitution was adopted on January 10, 1834.[5]

The first expansion chapter was started in 1837, when a member of Psi Upsilon at Union transferred to New York University. Ten chapters were founded in the first ten years, and eight more chapters were founded in the twenty years after that. By 1904, when the last founding father, Edward Martindale, died, there were 23 chapters and more than 11,000 members.[]

During World War II, a few chapters, such as the Omicron, rented their houses to the Army as barracks and offices. One chapter, the Epsilon Nu, rented its house to a sorority (Gamma Phi Beta). The rental income these chapters received allowed them to survive. Other chapters, such as the Lambda and Eta, could not afford the taxes and upkeep on an empty house and had to sell.[5]

After the war, the executive council hired professional staff and established a central office to assist chapters. At first the office consolidated initiation records and address lists, published a newsletter, and secured the fraternity's historical artifacts. Over time, the staff's size and function grew. Young alumni were hired to visit chapters as educational and leadership consultants, reviewing chapter operations and suggesting ways to improve. Leadership training was developed and expanded, and regular conclaves began to be held to train officers and alumni. Handbooks were published for each officer position and for general programs. Alumni associations were given professional advice on fundraising and house renovations. Within twelve years of the end of the war, five chapters were reactivated and four new chapters were chartered.[]

Fraternity firsts

Psi Upsilon was the first fraternity to[5]

  • Hold a fraternity convention (1841)
  • Print a membership catalogue (1842)
  • Print the fraternity history (1843)
  • Print a fraternity songbook (1849)
  • Issue a fraternity magazine (1850)

Famous alumni

President William H. Taft


Most chapters of Psi Upsilon retain the same type of governance: a president, two vice-presidents, a recording secretary, and a treasurer. The President presides over all meetings and enforces obedience to the Constitution and to the chapter bylaws. The First Vice President is the internal vice president and helps maintain an efficient system of communication among the brothers. The Second Vice President is the external vice president and serves as coordinator for public relations. Chapter may also have other leadership positions.[3]

Notable controversies

In 1971, Bowdoin College, formerly all male, decided to admit women to the college. The members of Kappa chapter of Psi Upsilon also voted to accept women that year becoming the first co-ed fraternity on Bowdoin's campus and in Psi Upsilon. In 1976, Patricia "Barney" Geller attended the national meeting as Kappa's president. And Psi U distinguished itself by not revoking Kappa's charter status. Instead the Kappa chapter admitted members of both sexes for as long as it existed and was only the first in Psi U to do so.[6]

On the night of Saturday, January 20, 1990, the brothers of Psi Upsilon kidnapped a rival fraternity member, subjecting him to various forms of physical and mental abuse. Penn kicked Psi U off campus less than five months later.[7]

Former Psi Upsilon building at Cornell

In July 2016, the president of Psi Upsilon's Chi chapter at Cornell University was indicted by a grand jury for sexual abuse of a female Cornell student in the fraternity house. The crime allegedly took place in late January of that year, with initial charges brought in early February.[8] In May the accused student sued Cornell University, saying that their investigation process was flawed and non-compliant with recent changes in State law.[9] The chapter has been suspended by both the national leadership of the fraternity, and Cornell University, although the university cited other violations.[10][11][12] Following a racially charged assault on a black student by white members of the house in September 2017, the chapter's alumni board voted to close the chapter indefinitely.[13]

In 2014, Wesleyan University required all male-only fraternities to become coeducational, partly in response to issues with sexual assault and harassment. At the time, Psi Upsilon and Delta Kappa Epsilon were the only recognized fraternities at the school.[14] After Delta Kappa Epsilon's housing was closed for failing to comply with the changes, Psi Upsilon was the remaining fraternity at the school. The fraternity agreed to become coeducational, but the chapter's housing was temporarily suspended by the school before any female students could join. The closure was pending a drug investigation and past claims of sexual assault .[15][16] As of September 2016, the chapter's house was expected to reopen with both male and female members.[17]


  1. ^ "Records of the 173rd Convention of Psi Upsilon Fraternity, p.15" (PDF). Psi Upsilon Fraternity. Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Chapter roll, Psi Upsilon (accessed February 28, 2019)
  3. ^ a b Psi Upsilon Tablet
  4. ^ Alice Donlevy was the author of a book on illustration called "Practical Hints on the Art of Illumination", published by A. D. F. Randolph, New York, 1867
  5. ^ a b c Psi Upsilon Fraternity Archived April 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Looking back: women make a place for themselves in Bowdoin Greek life".
  7. ^ Geldon, the, Penn, Daily Pennsylvanian, The Daily Pennsylvanian, Ben. "The night the Castle crumbled".
  8. ^ L'Heureux, Catie (July 15, 2016). "Former Cornell Fraternity President Indicted for Sexual Abuse*". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2016.
  9. ^ Harris, Chris (May 12, 2016). "Fraternity President Accused of Sexual Assault Files Civil Suit Against Cornell University". People. Retrieved 2016.
  10. ^ "Cornell Fraternity President Charged With Attempted Rape". ABC News. 8 February 2016.
  11. ^ Craighead, Olivia (September 21, 2016). "NYU Enrolls Student Undergoing Felony Sexual Abuse Charges". NYU Local. Retrieved 2016.
  12. ^ "University revokes recognition of Psi Upsilon Fraternity". Cornell University. June 24, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  13. ^ Harris, Elizabeth (September 19, 2017). "Cornell Fraternity Closes Indefinitely After Racially Charged Attack". New York Times. Retrieved 2017.
  14. ^ New, Jake (September 23, 2014). "Admit Women or Else". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2016.
  15. ^ New, Jake (August 23, 2016). "Search and Seizure". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2016.
  16. ^ Holley, Peter (December 1, 2014). "Following two sexual assaults, Wesleyan University bans fraternity from holding social events". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016.
  17. ^ De Beus, Camille (September 5, 2016). "Psi Upsilon Returns to Official Program Housing". The Wesleyan Argus. Retrieved 2016.

External links

Media related to Psi Upsilon at Wikimedia Commons

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