Georgetown SigEp Receives National Charter
By Erica Haviland
Georgetown’s chapter of the national fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon received an official charter from the organization’s national headquarters on Saturday, but the group still remains unrecognized by the university.
The charter recognizes Sigma Phi Epsilon, commonly known as SigEp, as the District of Columbia Gamma chapter of the national Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, which has more than 260 chapters nationwide and is the largest undergraduate fraternity in the country in terms of enrollment. SigEp National Headquarters approved the chapter’s 200-page application, which detailed every aspect of the fraternity’s day-to-day operations, in January.
The fraternity was formally awarded the charter at a black-tie banquet at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Many fraternity members gathered with dates, parents and alumni to accept their official charter from staff members of the fraternity’s national headquarters. The installation ceremony was followed by a four-course meal and dance.
Chapter President Paul Happel (COL ’08) said that receiving a charter was especially significant for SigEp because the university does not recognize Greek organizations.
“Having a charter shows that SigEp Headquarters thinks we’re strong and efficient enough to exist at a campus without a Greek life,” he said. “For them to give us a charter, without us being able to rely on competition with other fraternities on campus, shows that they recognize we’re able to stand alone here.”
Happel said the national headquarters only approves about 50 percent of the applications it receives nationally.
Under the university’s Access to Benefits Policy, fraternities and sororities are not eligible for recognition as student organizations at Georgetown. The policy stipulates that student groups must be “open to the entire Georgetown University undergraduate student community” and must not engage in “discriminatory, secret or ritualized membership practices.”
Georgetown does recognize certain fraternities, including Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity, and Phi Alpha Delta, a law fraternity, both of which are co-ed and have open membership policies.
“[Alpha Phi Omega] is open to anyone. Although it is called a fraternity, it is a service fraternity and has open membership,” Director of Student Programs Martha Swanson said. “It is not a social fraternity in the Greek tradition.”
Greg Barra, director for new chapter development at SigEp’s national headquarters in Richmond, Va., said Georgetown’s status as a non-Greek school was a consideration in the decision to accept the group’s charter application.
“Since there isn’t an established Greek community at Georgetown, the brothers have to do a lot more on their own in terms of creating philanthropy activities, student involvement activities and recruitment,” he said. “It’s really incumbent upon members to take it upon themselves to recruit, as opposed to at schools with established Greek communities that have a more established system for recruitment.”
While receiving a charter does not change SigEp’s relationship with the university, Happel said it will affect the fraternity’s involvement in Georgetown student life. Now that chartering is complete, the club will have more funds available for community service, recruitment, personal development programs for members and on-campus entertainment, he said.
In order to fund the banquet, which more than 150 people attended, the club had to spend about 30 percent of membership dues from the past two years, Happel said.
Sigma Phi Epsilon is the only social fraternity on campus, which means that it is not oriented toward a profession or community service. Happel said the fraternity focuses on improving the physical, mental and spiritual health of its members through lectures, meetings with trainers and nutritionists, group workouts and other programs. He said the chapter has 69 members and follows a no-pledging, no-hazing recruitment policy.
Chapter Vice President for Communications Joseph Curran (SFS ’09) said all members share similar principles. “SigEp is based only on certain core values that each of the brothers hold—virtue, diligence, brotherly love, sound mind and sound body.”