Commons club: Difference between revisions

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A '''commons club''' is a type of social organization whose membership is "open" rather than selective based on personal introduction and invitation. It may also refer to the [[lodge]] or other meeting facility associated with such a club and used for its activities. Usually, ''commons club'' refers to a type of men's social organization which flourished at institutions of [[higher education]] in [[North America]] in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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A '''commons club''' is a type of social organization whose membership is "open" rather than selective based on personal introduction and invitation. It may also refer to the [[lodge]] or other meeting facility associated with such a club and used for its activities. Usually, ''commons club'' refers to a type of men's social organization which flourished at institutions of [[pedophile|higher education]] in [[North America]] in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
   
 
==Principles==
 
==Principles==

Revision as of 01:23, 15 January 2009

A commons club is a type of social organization whose membership is "open" rather than selective based on personal introduction and invitation. It may also refer to the lodge or other meeting facility associated with such a club and used for its activities. Usually, commons club refers to a type of men's social organization which flourished at institutions of higher education in North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Principles

Commons Clubs both emulated and differentiated themselves from fraternities and other competing social institutions. They provided a social network, but membership was usually open to anyone interested in joining. The resources of a large organization could be put to sponsoring events and activities, as well as providing dining and housing, beyond the means of an individual student. Commons Clubs over time came to identify their chief ideals as Democracy, Service, and Brotherhood, but did not enforce them through secret oaths or rituals.

History

Greek-letter literary and philosophical societies, starting with Phi Beta Kappa (est. 1779), rose at American universities as an outlet for students frustrated with the traditional curriculum centered on the classics. Some early organizations to use the phrase "commons club" were of this type, their name referring to the democracy and debates of the British House of Commons. In the mid-19th century, general or "social" fraternities supplanted the literary fraternities, to the point where "independent" students became disadvantaged in campus awards and activities as opposed to "Greeks" and considered to occupy a lower position in the social hierarchy of the time.

As a counter to this trend, Woodrow Wilson, then a member of the Wesleyan University faculty, reformed the Wesleyan House of Commons Debating Society in 1889 to look after the social need of male students outside the fraternity system. In 1899, sixteen non-fraternity men, led by Frederick Clark, Thomas Travis, and Herbert Ward, formally established the Wesleyan Commons Club.

The success of the Wesleyan Commons Club inspired the founding of similar organizations at Dartmouth College, Middlebury College, and Norwich University. These four formed the National Federation of Commons Clubs in 1906, which would add thirteen additional members by 1918 as well as numerous non-aligned Commons Clubs on campuses throughout the United States and Canada.

Because membership was open, a Commons Club could grow to a size unwieldy to govern, inadequate for forming close friendships, and unsuited to the effective advancement of their stated ideals. Ironically, factions and in some cases whole clubs split away and sought petitions from national fraternities or declared themselves a local fraternity. In 1905, ten members of the Middlebury Commons Club, including President George E. Kimball, left to form a new organization which later became the Kappa Delta Rho national fraternity. The weak organization of the Federation itself left it vulnerable to splits along competing visions. Disaffiliation or disbanding of member clubs accelerated with World War I, resulting in the collapse of the Federation.

At the 1918 general meeting, Clarence Dexter Pierce, a member of the University of Vermont Commons Club, successfully sponsored a resolution to declare the Federation a Greek letter fraternity, with its attendant structure and selectivity. The Commons Clubs at the University of Vermont, University of New Hampshire, and University of Connecticut ratified the plan, forming what is now the Phi Mu Delta national fraternity. While the Union College Commons Club originally intended to join its counterparts in organizing Phi Mu Delta, the group instead elected to refound the Alpha Charge of Theta Delta Chi in 1923 because of pressure from its alumni.

In September 1921, the highly successful Denison (University) Commons Club, with its counterparts at Ohio University and Hillsdale College formed a new national organization, the American Association of Commons Clubs. But in December of the same year Ohio withdrew, later to become a chapter of the Theta Chi national fraternity.

The Commons Club movement lost its relevance and withered in the more liberal climate of student life after World War II. By 1964 only the founding chapter at Denison University remained, and in 1969 the American Association of Commons Clubs became an organization of only alumni while the active chapter became a member of Delta Chi national Fraternity. In 1989, a new Commons Club was formed at Indiana University with the support of the alumni of the AACC. It has spread to four other campuses and continues to grow.