Local History

Continuously active since 1845, Chi Psi is the oldest fraternity, and the oldest student organization, at the University of Michigan.  Chi Psi is credited with building the first fraternity house in the United States.  In April of 1846 David James, E'49, and a few other brothers built a log cabin for the Alpha in what is now Forest Hill Cemetery.  Prior to the building of this lodge, no other fraternity had ever possessed a building designated strictly for its own affairs.  In deference to the efforts of these brothers, all Chi Psis refer to their houses as lodges.














A sketch of the first lodge at the University of Michigan


Chi Psi played an integral role in fighting a bitter anti-fraternity movement during 1849 and 1850.  In 1849, the faculty attempted to eliminate fraternities completely by invoking an old university rule.  The rule mandated "that no student shall be or become a member of any society connected with the university whose constitution has not been submitted to and approved by the faculty."  In other words, unless the fraternities divulged their secrets, their members could not be students.  Even though the rule only applied to literary societies, the Board of Regents sided with the faculty and threatened to expel all fraternity members if they did not submit to the rule.


In response, the brothers of Chi Psi and another Michigan fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi, sought the support of the people of Ann Arbor and petitioned the state legislature to hold a new election for the Board of Regents.  Ultimately, the fraternities wanted a Board that would dismiss the current faculty and remove the rule at issue.  Mass meetings and newspaper editorials appeared all over Michigan in condemnation of "The Presumption of the Faculty of the University of Michigan."


While no legislation resulted from the fraternities' petition, and the faculty's victory seemed secure, a committee appointed to revise the Michigan state constitution provided for a new election of the Board of Regents.  By 1850, the entire Board of Regents and all but two professors were dismissed from the university.  The fraternities had secured their right to foster their brotherhood.