Summer Rites of the Delta Upsilons

Last spring, my friend and I made the decision to dwell among the Delta Upsilons during the summer. When initiated, we prepared ourselves for a foreign living experience. Located on the south side of town, the Delta Upsilon tribe, Greek letters ΔΥ, is an all-male group that resides between the Greek organization Sigma Kappa and other pupil-dominated accommodations on Warring Street. It is characterized by a red-brick homestead, an overabundance of males in sleeveless upper-body garments — most of the time with their Greek letters proudly displayed on them — and a constant smell of fermented wheat brew the DUs quench themselves with religiously.

As a female outsider, I initially had trouble assimilating into the testosterone-driven Delta Upsilon culture, even with some prior knowledge of the group’s rituals and its diverse ways of occupying time. During the other seasons, outsiders were only allowed to enter the territories during certain ceremonial gatherings. Those mere few hours of observation, however, were only enough to give us a glimpse into the lives of the inhabitants and were not enough to allow us to fully comprehend the group’s lifestyles and specific adaptations to the summer.

During the summer, much of the time of a Delta Upsilon is devoted to perfecting his skills in tossing light plastic balls, usually used for exercising purposes, into red bowl-shaped containers traditionally made to hold their usual ferment brew, which they vow to have healing properties. Being accurate in tossing the plastic balls into the red bowls on the end of the table is deemed an important and impressive skill, and although it is categorized a bonding ritual, often times, it becomes too competitive for bonding to take place. The consequences of losing these ball-tossing matches are often severe, involving a loss of pride in some of the participants. Yet, as indignant as some of the DUs’ behaviors became from the ball tosses, the inhabitants themselves neglect to remember their mistreatments post-ritual. This tension is usually reduced by their mysterious, feel-good liquid gold potion than inhabitants bargained for at their local market for minimal cost.

The more exotic of their customs, however, was their group cleanses. The DUs first strip off all their clothes, then avoid glancing at each others’ bodies in the nude during the entire ritual. The awkwardness soon disappears, however, as soon as the inhabitants enter the shrine’s bearing installation that disperses holy water and proceed to chant in unison. Likewise, this ritual involves drinking the bargained wheat brew that accompanies seemingly all of DU’s activities. When an outsider disrupts this ritual, one can expect to receive a stern look of agitation alongside the possibilities of catching a glance at a DU’s bare body. While the DUs are vague on the point of synchronizing their cleanses, it could be assumed that being bare among fellow inhabitants paves the way for them to bond on a more personal level.

Although most of the rites enforced by the Delta Upsilons are handed down through generations for bonding purposes, their bonds seem to be easily compromised when the opposite gender is involved.

Along with summer comes the DUs’ fascination with their temporary Irish inhabitants. The DUs seem to hold the fundamental belief that making a good impression on the Irish was crucial to their well-being during the summer. When an Irish female is impressed by a DU’s peacocking, which often involves intentionally expanding his muscles, they navigate into to an empty room with beds available. I was unable to get an in-depth report on the rituals performed behind closed doors, so little is known about the specific rituals performed but tradition states that they should not be disturbed during this time. I was, however, sometimes able to establish a good-enough bond with the DUs to have them tell insightful stories about their mysterious ritual practices and whom they practiced them with. Though interestingly enough, for this specific ritual, the DUs prefer that the liquid gold brew not be involved.

It was hoped that, when residing with the Delta Upsilon, there would be a clearer explanation of their exotic behavioral patterns; yet, their rituals tend to contradict each other if not contradict themselves. To better understand the DUs, more studies need to be conducted.

If you wish to contribute to the ethnographic study of this marginalized group, which I would highly recommend, be sure to fill out the initiation forms on time. Or, if you merely wish the enrich the broad field of fraternity studies and do not wish to concentrate on the Delta Upsilons specifically, it could be safely assumed that similar rituals occur at different tribes. Word of mouth is that these group cleanses are not just native to DU.

Contact Catherine Straus at [email protected].