Chase Stelzer, ’12, found a place at Allegheny as cornerback on the football team, but he couldn’t find a place in Greek life that felt right.
“I just never felt that fit one would look for in a specific fraternity, but I still wanted to be a part of Greek life,” Stelzer said in an email.
In May of 2009, Stelzer contacted Dean of Students Joe DiChristina and Director of Student Involvement Gretchen Symons about potentially starting a new fraternity on campus to accommodate others who didn’t find a perfect fit in the five fraternities currently chartered at Allegheny. The fraternity Stelzer’s been promoting for the past two years, Phi Gamma Delta, is now close to being approved for recolonization.
FIJI was founded on Allegheny’s campus in 1850, but was eventually disbanded by the administration due to what Symons described as policy violations.
“They left in July of ’98, because of multiple violations of [Interfraternity Council] policies, national organization policies, and college policies,” she said. Both Symons and DiChristina remarked that alcohol was involved in these infractions, although neither would elaborate on the specific nature of the violations.
Apollo Hrehorovich, an alumnus of the class of ’91 and one of the main alumni organizers and supporters of the recolonization efforts, described the violations as the result of a number of systemic problems that no longer exist at Allegheny.
“The transition of the college to stricter risk management policies, students who needed to modify their behavior materially to meet new standards, a FIJI chapter on private property which could effectively close the doors to the outside including security, and too little graduate brother involvement all led to: a lack of transparency, depletion of undergraduate leadership, erosion of standards and ultimately problems,” he explained in an e-mail. Hrehorovich added that increased alumni involvement in the recolonization efforts should assuage all fears of repeat offenses.
And much of the Greek community has expressed a willingness to leave the past in the past.
“Almost every chapter on this campus has been kicked off at some point, for something incredibly stupid, so, it happens,” said president of Phi Delta Theta Sam Moritz, ’12. “Everyone deserves a second chance.”
The process of recolonization requires that a formal application be submitted to the president of the college, who has the final say. However, the IFC is asked to submit a recommendation to the president on the issue, and this is the second time FIJI’s recolonization will come up for a vote in the council.
Last spring, the IFC voted against FIJI’s first recolonization bid mainly on the grounds of recruitment concerns, according to current IFC president and Phi Kappa Psi brother Cory Muscara, ’12. Muscara explained that a potential drop in recruitment continues to be a concern for many.
“The [pledge class] numbers are increasing to an extent, [but] we’re still struggling, we’re still not at the place that we want to be recruitment-wise,” he said.
But the group attempting to bring FIJI back to campus has expressed an interest in pulling other students into the fold, including members of the athletic community. Sarena Ferguson, ’12, Kappa Alpha Theta President, sees the opportunity to start a new organization as their right.
“I really think that they deserve the option to try to fit into their own group as opposed to trying to change themselves to fit into another Greek life organization,” she said. “If they don’t feel like they fit in, they need to start their own thing.”
To assuage the worries about depleting the pool of potential Greeks, the FIJI national organization plans to engage in recruitment only after the five established fraternities have held their rush period.
Multiple fraternity presidents also expressed worries about the group that would comprise FIJI, traditionally known as the “football fraternity,” if it were allowed to recolonize, citing past tensions between the football team and some of the fraternities.
“In the past, I’d say we had incidents where football players would be starting fights, either with brothers or with other members attending the party, and naturally damaging the fun times,” said Leo Leon, ’12, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Leon said he didn’t necessarily want those people who have been disrespectful towards his fraternity to be representative of Greek life.
Although others expressed this concern, some noted the potential of Greek life to breed accountability.
“If they want to come into our community, then they have to be respectful, they have to adhere to our rules,” Moritz said.
Both Stelzer and Hrehorovich said that it would be unfair to judge an ostensibly unrelated group by the actions of a few football players, and Hrehorovich emphasized that, during his time as a FIJI, the fraternity wasn’t really known as the “football fraternity.” Stelzer also mentioned the benefits of having athletes more involved in Greek life, citing the fact that only 21 of the current 239 fraternity members are part of Allegheny athletics.
“Not that an athletic fraternity is my goal by any means, but maybe a few athletes looking to bring back a fraternity could bridge that gap by debunking what seems to be a campus stigma: Greek life and athletics don’t mix,” he said in an email.
But some members of the Greek community said the members of the current interest group simply haven’t reached out to the community enough.
“One thing is I don’t want is people who have been disrespectful and who have been dissing Greek life to end up in it, because it’s essentially like a big ‘fuck you,’” Leon said.
In response, Stelzer cited the persistence of the group.
“Someone would not want to be part of a group that they do not respect, and clearly we want to be a part of Greek life, or else we would have stopped after the first ‘no’ vote,” he said in an email.
Although many Greek leaders expressed concerns about potentially bringing the fraternity back to campus, they also found many potential positives.
“I think [the return of FIJI could] kind of light a spark underneath all of the other fraternities and get them better recruiting skills, or just get them in order,” Ferguson said.
And DiChristina mentioned the potential increase in alumni involvement that could result from FIJI’s recolonization.
“Alumni who get reconnected with your institution, they come back [and] they’re part of the lives of students, they become mentors,” he said. “You end up solidifying, reconnecting people through their alma mater.”
Hrehorovich emphasized the prominent role he and other alumni plan to play in the FIJI recolonization and beyond, including career shadowing and mentoring.
“We believe we can help young men make good choices around our core ideals of friendship, knowledge, service to others, morality and excellence,” he said in an email.
The IFC is expected to vote on the issue before the end of classes, but some fraternity presidents expressed skepticism about the efficacy of their vote.
“Honestly, I don’t think that IFC has any power over this,” Moritz said. “The fact of the matter is, if we say no, we’re just giving a recommendation, which is literally nothing.”
But DiChristina said that in his ten years at the college, the president and the Greek organizations had generally come to a consensus on issues like these. Muscara added that he believes it’s in President Mullen’s best interest to take the IFC’s recommendation into account.
“We’re more educated on what’s going on, what the situation is, so [President Mullen] takes our opinions pretty seriously,” he said. “We’re representing a voice of 25 percent of the campus, which is forwarded to him, and that’s what he will take into consideration, so it does hold a lot of weight.”
The vote passed along to President Mullen, however, may not reflect the true opinions of the fraternities on campus. All five organizations are a member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, which has a policy that generally promotes the expansion of Greek life on all campuses. According to Muscara, the presidents of each fraternity have been contacted by their national organization to remind them to adhere to this policy and to dissuade them from voting against FIJI.
“To an extent, they feel pressured,” he said. “Whether it goes against or it follows their own beliefs, they feel like they’re being told to do something, and it’s taking away from their voice as individuals.”
Leon said although he had been contacted by his national organization and told he was expected to vote in line with policy, he plans to vote in reflection of SAE’s position on the matter, which he said was generally mixed but leaning negatively. But at least one fraternity, Theta Chi, has been contacted by their national organization and told that sanctions may be in order if they do not vote in keeping with national policy.
“There’s a negative feel from the frat, but I’m planning on voting positively,” said Theta Chi president Colin Marozzi, ’12. “We’re kind of just like handcuffed here.”
Regardless of the outcome of the IFC vote, most fraternity presidents said they believe FIJIs will eventually be allowed to recolonize on campus.
“I think they’ll be on next semester no matter what, because they are pushing so hard,” Moritz said. “And so IFC really needs to change the conversation to not what we think about it, cause we don’t have any power, it’s literally like how can we incorporate them into this culture, cause it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen really soon.”