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The Alpha Delta Phi Society has a rich and varied national history.

Credit: Lizzy Machielse

Does size matter? The Alpha Delta Phi Society doesn’t think so. Comprised of only 16 people, the Society takes pride not only in its distinction as one of Penn’s smallest greek organizations, but by it’s mission to “Greek Differently.”

Alpha Delta Phi president and College junior Adam DeLisle described the society as “distinctly” different from other greek organizations.

“We really do operate very differently,” he said.

College sophomore and the society’s “parliamentarian,” Caitlin Howell agreed. “We think of ourselves as the kind of people who you wouldn’t meet elsewhere ... we are greek but not necessarily in the way you might expect.”

College junior and new member educator Lydia Ramharack initially ignored the letter inviting her to rush, adding “I [didn’t] want to do greek things.”

She now laughs at that reaction. “Technically we’re a greek organization, but we’re not typical,” she said.

The society’s unique nature lies in its history. Alpha Delta Phi was founded in 1832 as a literary society at Hamilton College. The fraternity grew to encompass several charters, including the Dartmouth College chapter, which inspired the controversial 1978 film “Animal House.”

In 1992, co-ed chapters of the group, like that at Brown University, split off to create the Alpha Delta Phi Society. Members of the organization are quick to highlight the difference between the Alpha Delta Phi Society and the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, a distinction that caries both moral and legal weight. Today, the groups are legally and ideologically disjointed.

The society’s separation from its fraternity counterpart comes not only from legal binds, but also from a desire to cultivate a healthy and safe greek environment they feel the fraternity lacks. Alpha Delts, as they call themselves, take pride in their membership to an organization which prioritizes inclusivity and diversity above all.

“Across racial boundaries, gender boundaries, sexuality ... in general the Alpha Delta Phi is a very diverse organization,” Howell said.

She pointed also to the Society’s use of “gender-inclusive” rather than “co-ed” as evidence of the group’s commitment to its mission.

The society looks to redefine greek affiliation and rid fraternities and sororities of the stereotypes which so often plague campus and national discourse.

“If you’re treated like an enemy, you’re going to get a lot more defensive,” DeLisle said.

Though not explicitly a service organization, the Society does partake in several philanthropic outings. Their recent fundraiser, “Blind Date with a Book” sold books wrapped in newspaper on Locust Walk. Proceeds benefitted “Books though Bars,” a local organization that brings literature to inmates in the tristate area.

“We emphasize trust, commitment, loyalty, friendship and also generally scholarship and philanthropy,” Howell said, adding that their goal is “just being good people.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Brown University's chapter of Alpha Delta Phi began accepting women in 1992. In fact, it accepted women long before that, as did other chapters, though Brown and other gender-inclusive chapters formed a separate society in 1992. The DP regrets the error.

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