Four frats seek return to campus

All four fraternities are re-establishing chapters that were once active at the U.

Samantha Alisankus

As the University of Minnesota’s greek population rises, so does expansion interest from new fraternities.

 The greek community added more than 700 members to fraternities and sororities this fall, sparking interest from four fraternities — Theta Chi, Alpha Sigma Phi, Zeta Beta Tau and Zeta Psi — which are currently coordinating expansion efforts with the University’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

Despite growth, the greek community remains one of the smallest in the Big Ten, with only 6 percent of the student population.

Matt Levine, program director for
OFSL, said bringing chapters to campus creates an environment for healthy growth and competition among fraternities.

 “It provides an opportunity to men who didn’t want what we had but wanted to start something new,” he said.

Potential overlap

Fraternities looking to expand have multiple options. The University’s Interfraternity Council operates under the North American Interfraternity Conference’s open expansion process, which allows multiple fraternities to conduct expansion efforts simultaneously.

The process acts as a general guide for expansion and isn’t mandatory. As a result, the process of coming to campus may vary from fraternity to fraternity.

Levine said limited resources are a primary concern when bringing new chapters to campus.

He said it’s possible for incoming fraternities to overlap and recruit students from the same areas and groups on campus.

“We want chapters to be successful, but we don’t want to burn out resources or interested people,” he said.

But the North American Interfraternity Conference doesn’t see this as a concern. An expansion position statement on the NIC’s website states, “Until the number of fraternity men on campus begins to approach 75 percent, then this [limited pool of interested men] is an unfounded worry.”

None of the four expanding fraternities were concerned with potential overlap.

“We always find that there’s more good men to be in fraternities at every campus,” said Laurence Bolotin, executive director of Zeta Beta Tau. “I’ve never seen a university that does not have a good man that is willing to be a part of greek life.”

They also said they weren’t concerned regarding competition between expanding chapters.

 “We try to support each other,” said Tyler Boisvert, director of chapter services for Zeta Psi. “The University of Minnesota is a big enough university where we think that everybody should be able to cohabitate at the same time.”

History

All four fraternities are attempting to re-establish chapters that were once active on campus.

Zeta Psi was the first of the four to install a chapter on campus in 1899. Its Alpha Beta chapter remained active for 108 years until it left the University in 2007.

The chapter house — which now belongs to the University’s chapter of Sigma Pi — still bears the letters of the fraternity.

Alpha Sigma Phi was started in 1916 when the Omar Club, a group of 13 University upperclassmen, petitioned for a charter from the national Alpha Sigma Phi office. The chapter was forced to close its doors in 1935 in the aftermath of the Great Depression.

Three buildings on campus bear the names of Alpha Sigma Phi men: Northrop Auditorium, named for Cyrus Northrop — the University’s second president, Morrill Hall, named for previous University President James Morrill, and Wangensteen Historical Library, named after Owen Wangensteen, a former notable surgeon and University educator.

Theta Chi started a chapter at the University in 1924. After nearly 75 years, the chapter began to struggle with low enrollment and deterioration of its chapter house.

It officially closed its door in 1999 and remained vacant until 2002, when it was restored. It now serves as both the Kappa Pi Alpha chapter house and Bordertown Coffee.

Zeta Beta Tau is returning to campus in a slightly different form from its departure in 1952.

It originally existed on campus as a chapter of Phi Epsilon Pi, which was first on campus in 1923. In 1961, the fraternity merged with another organization but remained under the same name. By 1970, however, the fraternity again merged to form what is now Zeta Beta Tau.

All returning chapters said expansion requires a large amount of time and resources. Each said it has local support systems in place to assure sustainability over time.

But Levine said success will ultimately depend on the investments interested men are willing to make in the organizations.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “it comes down to what the students want.”