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Carolina’s oldest student group celebrates 225 years

The topics discussed by Carolina's Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies may have changed over the past two centuries, but students today are still carrying on many of the debate and literary groups' traditions.

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Hanna Berg doesn’t travel by horse, write with quill pens or study by candlelight, but she still has a connection to the Carolina students who did do those things more than 200 years ago.

Berg is part of Carolina’s DiPhi debate and literary society, the University’s oldest student organization.

“Sometimes it seems hard to grasp that 225 years ago [society members] sat around the University’s academic buildings in candlelight debating each other — students doing the same thing I am today,” said Berg, a Carolina junior.

The student organization was created on June 3, 1795, and was split into two debating groups — the Dialectic Society and the Philanthropic Society. Carolina’s school colors can be traced to the light blue from the Dialectic Society and the white from the Philanthropic Society.

The societies remained separate until 1959 when they formally merged into one group and took on the DiPhi name — though students still select which society in the group they represent.

Following in tradition, the DiPhi’s debates are typically held in the nearly 160-year-old Dialectic Chamber on the top floor of New West. The group has transitioned to meeting on Zoom for this semester, however.

“We try to have debates about politics, history, art and literature, science and whether people should get off of TikTok,” said Emily Lewis, a senior and member of the Dialectic Society.

Twice a year, the group goes through its archives to revisit debates held decades ago, discussing topics like World War I foodstuffs and whether a horse is preferable to a cow.

Editor’s note: All interviews for this video were conducted over Zoom.