News Tidbits 10/11/12: Kappa Sigma Reopens its Doors

11 10 2012

Even though I’m old and way out of touch from Greek Life (apart from the overly sentimental newsletter I get each semester from my fraternal alma mater), I’m sharing this because it happened my last semester at Cornell. From the Cornell Daily Sun:

After being shut down for more than two years, the Cornell chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity was recently reinstated on campus.

According to Brett Musco ’13, the fraternity president, Kappa Sigma lost its charter from its national chapter in Spring 2010 after violating sanctions that the chapter imposed on them.

A year and a half before it was shut down, the Cornell chapter of Kappa Sigma was found in violation of its national organization’s “risk management policy” and told that it could no longer host events with alcohol, Associate Dean of Students for Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Travis Apgar told The Sun in May 2010.    The fraternity was also required to have any events approved by a regional manager from the national organization, according to Apgar.

When it was discovered that the fraternity hosted an unregistered party with alcohol, the chapter was shut down by the national organization for breaking Kappa Sigma sanctions.

The fraternity house, a property on 600 University Ave., is owned by Cornell and was renovated and turned into student housing by the University for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years. However, it was agreed that if Kappa Sigma were ever reinstated on campus, fraternity members could occupy the building again, Musco said.

As part of the process of rebuilding the chapter, Kappa Sigma brothers petitioned for members of the classes of 2012 and 2013 –– who had been expelled from the fraternity –– to be reinstated as brothers.

“Once we got those core guys from those two years reinstated, we could become an interest group,” Musco said. “And then, from an interest group you become a colony, and we became a colony [in] July of 2011.”

According to Musco, while the chapter was not recognized by the IFC or the University, it still participated in rush events and informed potential members of their status.

Though it was not a chapter at the time, the Kappa Sigma colony –– or probationary body of brothers –– participated in formal rush in 2012, according to Musco.

After Rush Week, the members had to follow certain guidelines and submit a petition to regain its status as a chapter.

“A lot came down to learning from the mistakes that the older guys had made and the former chapter had made,” Musco said. “And a lot came down to recruitment and getting new guys to carry the fraternity.”

As a result of Rush Week, the majority of the fraternity’s membership comes from the Class of 2015, Musco said. Kappa Sigma will be participating in Rush Week in January 2013, he added.


So, this is an unusual case in the world of GLOs. The chapter was shut down by their national and lost recognition from Cornell. But, they were allowed to recolonize and petition for reinstatement. They also regained their house, because their agreement with Cornell allows them to move back in once they are reinstated (I like to imagine a closet in the dorm where they hid all the lettering and regalia). Now from here, it could go two ways – they fade into obscurity and failure a la Theta Chi in the early 2000s, or they build themselves back up and move on, like Psi Upsilon in 1979.

Speaking personally, about two-thirds of the people I’ve stayed in close contact with post-undergrad have been my old fraternity brothers. And I know that when something happens to the chapter that we don’t like, for instance a poor rush, we try and write it off as “it’s their house to run now”, but it still casts a bittersweet pall over our memories. So from an alumni perspective, I’m glad for their graduated brethren, and I wish them the best.

News Tidbits 4/18/11: Fraternity Seeks Recolonization in Turbulent Times

18 04 2011

Image property of Alpha Phi Delta

Seems a second fraternity is seeking to reestablish itself on Cornell’s campus this year.  According to the Daily Sun, an interest group has been preliminarily approved for recognition of the recolonization of the Alpha Phi Delta fraternity (in other words, the first step to recognition has been taken). Unlike Phi Kappa Sigma, this interest group has taken the route of forming a group first and then seeking the recognition of a national (which is the way it’s traditionally done with fraternities), rather than the national coming in and seeking to revive or start a chapter (more common for sororities, but an increasingly appealing option for large fraternal orgs).

Alpha Phi Delta has existed previously at Cornell’s campus. It was a historically Italian-American fraternity founded at Syracuse in 1911, and still draws most of its chapter membership from colleges in the Northeast. The Cornell chapter (Mu) was founded in 1922 and closed in 1968, three years after the fraternity opened itself up to membership for all men(and not just ones of Italian heritage). From old Cornellian yearbooks, it can be determined that they stayed with one house during their time at Cornell, but I’m having one hell of a time trying to determine its location – I can’t find it anywhere nearby on the 1928 and 1954 Cornell maps, which suggests to me it might have been far from campus.

Anyways, given the closure of Theta Xi and the recent fallout due to the SAE tragedy, I’m unsure as to how successful they will be. But, I wish them the best of luck. Oh, and if they’re still looking for a house, it would make my heart jump if they could move into an unused property that could use some revitalizing, like 722 University Avenue.

The Death Knell of Greek Life?

2 03 2011

In some sense, I’ve learned to dread days where I see the number of hits to this blog skyrocket, namely because days with extraordinarily high hits can be correlated unfortunately well with the untimely death of a student at the university. So it was with some hesitancy that I glanced at the Sun’s website this weekend.

The news is unnerving and tragic. A student is dead. Secondly, the Tompkins County sheriff has gone on the record to say that the death was likely alcohol-related. The student, George Desdunes, was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and was found unresponsive at the fraternity house on Friday morning. At this point, it was yet to be established to what extent the fraternity is responsible in his untimely death, but SAE has been suspended temporarily.

When I first heard the news, I kept hoping that the fraternity wouldn’t be responsible. SAE is considered to be one of the most visible Greek houses on Cornell’s campus. It has one of the largest memberships of any fraternity at Cornell and holds a fairly strong presence in Greek affairs, and to some extent campus affairs (a number of their members and recent alumni, such as Svante Myrick ’09 and Eddie Rooker ’10, hold prominent positions in and around the university and surrounding city). So if SAE was responsible for the death of one of its members, the effects would be profound and far-reaching through all parts of the system.

Given the problems of the system and the recent reforms forced onto it by the university, I am honestly wondering whether or not it is a sign of the end of the system. the first thing that comes to mind was Ithaca College’s ban of Greek life after the death of Joseph Parella in 1980, during a fraternity pledge event in which he was hazed. But, it’s not easy to compare the two systems. For one, Ithaca College’s fraternities were generally housed in dorms (in comparison, Cornell owns  about one-third the Greek houses), and for two, their system represented a much smaller proportion of their student body than Cornell’s does.

I suppose the usual arguments will come out – the biggest donors to the school are Greek, they can’t touch private houses, and so forth. The problem is, if SAE is found responsible, their role in the death of a student would be a very powerful and legitimate reason to favor de-recognition of Greek life. Addressing argument number two, while many chapters own their own property and would not be immediately affected, they lose the protection that the university gives — i.e. every party thrown is a target for local and campus police to bust underage drinkers. So the system wouldn’t be “shut down” per se, but it could easily be crippled.

Perhaps a better comparison would be a case from MIT that occurred about 15 years ago. On September 26, 1997, a pledge of FIJI at MIT died after a pledge event due to alcohol poisoning.  MIT is, like Cornell, a prestigious institution with substantial Greek Life – at MIT, it comprises about 42% the student body. There had been signs Greek Life had been getting out of control prior to the death of Scott Krueger. As a result of the event, RAs were put in fraternity houses, mandatory CPR training was established, all freshmen were required to live in dorms, MIT paid a $6 million settlement to the family due to negligence in preventing the event from occurring, the fraternity was shut down (and has never come back), and several of the former FIJI members were convicted of criminal offenses. It forever changed the way MIT dealt with its fraternities. But they still have a large, influential system.

But comparisons only offer ideas, not results. So what will happen with Cornell’s system? A good question.  But not one that can be answered just yet, while Cornell students mourn the loss of one of their own.

News Tidbits 2/7/11: Sorority Selected for Recolonization on CU Campus

7 02 2011

According to the Cornell Daily Sun, Phi Sigma Sigma sorority has been selected to recolonize at Cornell University, from a field of five candidates. From the article:

“Phi Sigma Sigma will begin recruiting a core group of members in the fall, drawing in part from the new sorority interest group on campus. The sorority will participate in formal recruitment in Jan. 2012….

Phi Sigma Sigma had a chapter at Cornell that left the University in 1969, a departure Sanders speculated may have been due to a generally negative view of Greek life at the time. She said supportive Cornell alumnae from the chapter’s earlier years would be an asset to its reestablishment. “

That much is correct. Phi Sigma Sigma established a chapter (Beta Xi) at Cornell University around 1954. The chapter was located in the house at 313 Wait Avenue.The chapter was closed around 1969, and for that I offer two, non-mutually exclusive explanation. The first is as Ms. Sanders suggested – the late 1960s were a time of strong social activism and Greek life was seen as archaic and out of touch with the times, so membership declined rapidly. Phi Sigma Sigma was one of four or five chapters to shut down in a three year span from 1969-1971. Secondly, Phi Sigma Sigma, although officially non-sectarian, was regarded as a house for women of Jewish faith. As other sorority houses adopted non-sectarian policies in the 1960s, the competition became much fiercer, and with the general declines in sorority interest, this likely compounded and caused the chapter to close its doors.

The Sun article states that 14 South Ave. is expected to be used as the new house for the sorority at Cornell. This house has been used for so many Greek houses it’s like a token minority character in a movie – no one can remember their name, but everyone remembers their race or skin color. In this case, no one can remember the house’s letters, they just know it’s a Greek house. For the record, the house was built in 1957, and home to Kappa Alpha Society up to their closing in 1990, and then it was home to AOPi and Delta Chi. This is discussed more in another entry on this blog.

Among the nifty things that turned up in a google search is a word document from the ladies of Phi Sigma Sigma national that seems to be an overview of their presentation to the Cornell Panhel on why they would make for a good addition to the campus Greek scene. It doesn’t really offer much in the way of interesting information, but I was rather surprised it was so easy to find on the Internet.

So yeah, congratulations ladies. Good luck to your rechartering in the upcoming year.

The Unhappy Guide to the 2010 OFSA Report

26 01 2011

Yeah, this is the last year I will actually care about this document. For one thing, it is the last year that will be personally relevant to me since I graduated this past May. After this, I’m fairly okay with just hearing about activities through my fraternity’s newsletter or the Cornell Daily Sun.

So anyways, here’s the PDF:

Click to access 2009-2010FratSororityAR.pdf

My first instinct was to scroll past a standard sorority girl photo because I immediately recognized one of the girls as my supervisor’s boss’s daughter, and I was not the biggest fan of her lazy, ditzy behavior. I put up with her when she in high school and she was a temp employee, and I tolerated her when she came to Cornell and became a stereotypical sorority girl. She’s not doing any favors for the system’s image.

Reading through, I think the system took a collective step backwards for 2009-10. Don’t get me wrong, establishing yet another honorary society (Rho Lambda) and holding Greek summits is fine and dandy. But Theta Xi shut down, Pi Kappa Alpha was forced into closure, Beta Theta Pi reorganized and Kappa Sigma was shut down by its national. Not a good year for fraternities.

Looking at membership numbers, they dropped to 31.42% for male membership and 23.35% for women. The sororities are holding steady, but for guys, that’s the lowest percentage in four years. The total number of first-years of both genders increased slightly, and the total membership intake decreased slightly. For a system still trying to command a presence at Cornell, the decreases are a troubling sign.

Interesting, in terms of membership intake, they broke it down this year to fall, spring, rush week and non-rush week bid acceptances, and the number of deactivations. The numbers are interesting. Most house seem to have zero or one who depledged, but two houses pulled five or more – Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Delta Kappa Epsilon. Ouch. Still, looking at my own house, I can tell you with certainty that the numbers who pledged and depledged are false. So, make of this information what you will.

It also shows a couple of strange cases. Sigma Chi Delta, a small co-ed house on Heights Court near North Campus, had one pledge — who deactivated. Lambda Phi Epsilon, an Asian-interest fraternity, had twelve pledges – and twelve who depledged, for a final total of zero. I wonder if someone is looking into that. Kappa Phi Lambda, an Asian-interest sorority, didn’t do much better – they had 8 out of 11 depledge. I’m curious as to what exactly their pledging entailed.

No real surprises in the GPAs. The houses that are typically near the top are still at or near the top – Pi Kappa Phi had the highest spring 2010 GPA and fall 2009 GPA at around 3.56. Which, much to my chagrin, is higher than all of two of my semesters at Cornell (I studied atmospheric science, cut me some slack here).

Social events resulting in a complaint increased from 9 to 13%. Judicial complaints were up, mostly due to social violations or hazing reports.  Considering the information contained here, it’s not hard to see why the trustees voted against the system’s social policies this past fall.

Overall, the 2010 Report does not paint a pretty picture of the future of the system.