You know the one. The big gray house with red trim. You’ve probably noticed the slightly ominous glowing heart on the second floor, which surrounds a skull and crossbones.
That big old house has been home to Indiana Tech’s chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon for 50 years. The fraternity is celebrating its anniversary with several events Nov 1-3, including a dinner at the Grand Wayne Center.
But despite its storied history, don’t refer to it as a "frat house." And don’t expect any keggers. In fact, you can throw out just about all your preconceived notions of a fraternity when you walk into the SigEp house.
“‘Frat’ is a stereotype," said alumni board president Thomas Le. When people refer to SigEp as a frat house "we politely say it’s a fraternity," Le said.
Nationally and locally, SigEp emphasizes brotherhood and a "sound mind, sound body" philosophy, Le said.
But what about the wild keg parties for which so many fraternities are known?
They may have happened in the past, but the current brothers say those days are over and the walls aren’t talking.
Le said the national SigEp organization would likely revoke the local chapter’s charter if it got wind of an excessive amount of alcohol (ie a keg) or a wild party in the house.
"We are very, very strict," Le said. Due to liability issues, at least at the local SigEp house, that raucous activity is a thing of the past. Le said the local brothers don’t want to hurt the SigEp reputation. "That is our name."
SigEp is the only fraternity left on the Indiana Tech campus. Prospective brothers don’t pledge, nor is hazing a part of joining the fraternity. Those interested in joining are invited over to the house to socialize, but have to be invited into the fraternity by a brother.
So if the fraternity house isn’t party central, what do the brothers do? Eight brothers currently live at the house, but the brothers who don’t can hang out anytime.
The group does service projects, such as collecting canned goods for food pantries. They also do annual remodeling projects in the eight-bedroom house, which is rumored to be haunted. "We say, whatever you put into this house is what you get out of this house," Le said.
Charles Randall, a junior at Indiana Tech, joined SigEp because "it was a place I could come and feel at home. It’s my house as much as it is anybody else’s."
He says living in the SigEp house is cheaper than living in a dorm on campus, and "I just prefer to live here because I like living in a home."
Every Thursday night all the brothers, even those who don’t live at the house, get together to fix a meal. As for cleaning, "everybody has a house job two times a week, whether you live here or not," Randall said.
So the next time you drive by the SigEp fraternity house, don’t let your imagination run amok. This is no "Animal House." This is a house and an organization dedicated to community service and building balanced men.
"We have these guidelines that will make you a better person," Randall said.