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The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies

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A Noble Tradition?

Painting the Town Blue

Di and Phi Societies   >

The two oldest student organizations at UNC, the Dialectic and Philanthropic (pronounced "PHI-lanthophic") Societies were founded in 1795 only "months after the arrival of Hinton James, UNC's first student." Originally known as the Debating Club and the Concord Society, these initially competing groups eventually opted for their equivalent greek names, as they are now known colloquially as the Di and Phi.

According to legend, the initial rivalry between the two groups was so intense that duels were fought, often over new members. To overcome this unpleasant situation, the University apparently formalized a geographic dividing line, decreeing that students originating west of Orange County be made Di's and those from the east be Phi's. Notably, out of state students and those hailing from Orange County were allowed to choose which society to enlist in.

The societies material contributions to the University are notable, including:

> Carolina's school colors--light blue and white--that began as symbols of division between the members of the two Societies. The Di put blue ribbons on its diplomas, given to graduates in addition to the University's diplomas, as emblems of excellence and honor. The Phi, on the other hand, chose white ribbons for its diplomas, representing truth and virtue.

> As stated by the Di and Phi webpage, "When intercollegiate football began in the 1880s, the team members noticed the school colors worn by schools like Virginia (orange and blue) and Wake Forest (black and gold). They wanted similar identification as Carolina students. Quite naturally, they adopted the Societies' blue and white signifying that students of both the Di and Phi were on the team and supported it to victory." So, when the Tar Heels "turn it blue" today or wear white to support Carolina, they're really advocating either the Di's or the Phi's without realizing it.

> The societies additionally founded the Yackety Yack, UNC's annual; one of the first campus newspapers; The White and Blue; and the University Magazine [25].

The Yakety-Yak was Started by the Di and Phi Societies

The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill

All Text and Photos © 2004.