Residential and Greek societies
Ladd Observatory, built 1890-91, is on the National Register of Historic Places
About 12 percent of Brown students are in fraternities and sororities. There are 11 residential Greek houses: six fraternities (Alpha Epsilon Pi, Delta Phi, Delta Tau, Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Chi, and Theta Delta Chi; three sororities (Alpha Chi Omega, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Kappa Delta), one co-ed house (Zeta Delta Xi), and one co-ed literary society (Alpha Delta Phi). Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity was present on campus from 1906 to 1939, but was unable to reactivate after WWII due to wartime losses. All recognized Greek-letter organizations are located on campus in Wriston Quadrangle in University-owned housing. They are overseen by the Greek Council.
An alternative to Greek-letter organizations are the program houses organized by themes. As with Greek houses, the residents of program houses select their new members, usually at the start of the Spring semester. Examples of program houses are St. Anthony Hall (located in King House), Buxton International House, the Machado French/Hispanic House, Technology House, Harambee (African culture) House, Social Action House and Interfaith House.
Currently, there are three student cooperative houses at Brown. Two of them, Watermyn and Finlandia on Waterman Street, are owned by the Brown Association for Cooperative Housing (BACH), an non-profit corporation owned by its members. The third co-op, West House, is located in a Brown-owned house on Brown Street. The three organizations run a vegetarian co-op for the larger community.
The largest surviving Hutchings-Votey organ in the world is in Sayles Hall. It has 3,355 pipes and weighs 25 tons. It is pictured here for Brown's traditional Halloween midnight concert.
Societies and clubs
The earliest societies at Brown were devoted to oration and debate. The Pronouncing Society is mentioned in the diary of Solomon Drowne, class of 1773, who was voted its president in 1771. It seems to have disappeared during the Revolutionary War. We next hear of the Misokosmian Society, founded in 1794 and renamed the Philermenian Society in 1798. This was effectively a secret society with membership limited to 45. It met fortnightly to hear speeches and debate and thrived until the Civil War; in 1821 its library held 1594 volumes. In 1799 a chapter of the Philandrian Society, also secret, was established at the College. In 1806 the United Brothers was formed as an egalitarian alternative to the Philermenian Society. "These two great rivals," says the University historian, "divided the student body between them for many years, surviving into the days of President Sears. A tincture of political controversy sharpened their rivalry, the older society inclining to the aristocratic Federals, the younger to the Republicans, the democrats of that day. ... The students continuing to increase in number, they outran the constitutional limits of both societies, and a third, the Franklin Society, was established in 1824; it never had the vitality of the other two, however, and died after ten years." Other nineteenth century clubs and societies, too numerous to treat here, are described in Bronson's history of the University.
The sesquicentennial poster
The Cammarian Club—founded in 1893 and taking its name from the Latin for lobster, its members' favorite dinner food—was at first a semi-secret society which "tapped" 15 seniors each year. In 1915, self-perpetuating membership gave way to popular election by the student body, and thenceforward the Club served as the de facto undergraduate student government. In 1971, unaccountably, it voted the name Cammarian Club out of existence, thereby amputating its tradition and longevity. The successor and present-day organization is the generically-named Undergraduate Council of Students.
Societas Domi Pacificae, known colloquially as "Pacifica House," is a present-day, self-described secret society, which nonetheless publishes a website and an email address. It claims a continuous line of descent from the Franklin Society of 1824, citing a supposed intermediary "Franklin Society" traceable in the nineteenth century. But the intermediary turns out to be, on closer inspection, the well-known Providence Franklin Society, a civic organization unconnected to Brown whose origins and activity are well-documented. It was founded in 1821 by merchants William Grinnell and Joseph Balch, Jr., and chartered by the General Assembly in January 1823. The "Pacifica House" account of this (conflated) Franklin Society cites published mentions of it in 1859, 1876, and 1883. But the first of these (Rhees 1859, see footnote infra) is merely a sketch of the 1824 Brown organization; the second (Stockwell 1876) is a reference-book article on the Providence Franklin Society itself; and the third is the Providence Franklin Society's own publication, which the "Pacifica House" reference mis-ascribes to "Franklin Society," dropping the word "Providence."