Building a Fraternity From the Ground Up
By: Chris Megerian
When Sigma Phi Epsilon representatives want to find the right men for a new chapter of their fraternity, they ask the people who know best - sorority women.
So, on Tuesday, Sig Ep Regional Director Aaron Dail, who is helping start an Emory colony, dropped to one knee and presented a bouquet of red roses to Gamma Phi Beta sorority President Andrea Heflin at a chapter meeting in front of all her sisters. National Expansion Director Jason Cherish then outlined the type of students that Sig Ep hopes to attract: intelligent, polite, balanced and civic-minded men.
Afterward, one girl asked incredulously, "Do you know any men like this?"
"We believe men like this exist here at Emory," Cherish replied.
The girls in the room broke out laughing, but Cherish wasn't kidding. Sig Ep hopes to create a different type of fraternity than currently exists at Emory - and fast. National representatives will leave campus in less than a month, at which point they need to have gathered 20 to 40 men who meet the fraternity's standards.
Emory administrators have high hopes for Sig Ep. The Division of Campus Life and the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life expect the new fraternity to refocus attention in Greek life on scholarship, service and brotherhood.
"It's sort of returning back to the original purpose of fraternities," Director of Sorority and Fraternity Life Victor Felts said. "Many fraternities have gotten away from promoting those aspects."
Breaking the 'Fraternity Stereotype
'The primary difference between Sig Ep and other fraternities is its approach to recruitment: Sig Ep doesn't have any pledging process. Instead, students join at any time and become full members once they accept their bids.
Recruits then participate in the four-year "Balanced Man Program," which involves mentoring, athletics and academic rigor. Members complete a list of "challenges" designed to enrich their minds and bodies.
"We're just totally designed differently than other fraternities," Cherish said. "The main reason we're here is to do something different."
Director of New Chapter Development Greg Barra said the program acts as a "self-filter," ensuring that the fraternity doesn't recruit students interested in perpetuating "a fraternity stereotype."
"We're not here to be sticks in the mud, but we're here to guide freshmen to a better college experience than they might have had," Barra said.
Sig Ep, the largest fraternity in the country with about 13,000 undergraduate members in about 300 chapters, is the first of two new fraternities coming to Emory within the next year. Pi Kappa Phi is expected to start the colonization process in fall 2007.
Pi Kappa Phi was chosen for the same reasons as Sig Ep, and is recognized as the only fraternity in America to create and maintain its own philanthropy.
Riordan said one of Sig Ep's major challenges would be creating enough buzz on campus to be considered "cool" and to compete with more established fraternities for members.But Sig Ep representatives said they will pull members from a pool of people not interested in joining other fraternities at Emory.
In the end, their success hinges on those students choosing to switch their allegiance from non-Greek to Sig Ep.- Contact Chris Megerian at firstname.lastname@example.org