Zeta Beta Tau returns to campus

Mehgan Lee

North America’s oldest and largest historically Jewish fraternity will return to campus this fall.

Zeta Beta Tau is now searching for students who will help establish a chapter at the University.

The fraternity’s mission is to educate its members and create friendships between them, said Jonathan Yulish, executive director of Zeta Beta Tau Inc.

“Integrity, social responsibility, intellectual awareness and brotherly love are the pillars of what we stand for,” he said.

Chapters of the fraternity were created at the University in 1923 and again in 1949, but those shut down, said Eric Brown, chapter and expansion consultant for Zeta Beta Tau Inc.

It’s the first fraternity to come to the University since 2002, when Tau Kappa Epsilon arrived. There are 22 fraternities and 12 sororities on campus, according to the Web site www.begreek.org.

Zeta Beta Tau originated in 1903, Yulish said. It became a Greek-letter society for Jewish college men, because at that time Jews were not allowed to join existing fraternities, he said.

But Zeta Beta Tau became nonsectarian in 1954, Yulish said.

“We opened up to all men of good moral character, regardless of race or religion,” he said. “Today, we still have quite a few Jewish members, and we have chapters that are all Jewish, but it’s a mixed bag.”

In 1989, Zeta Beta Tau became the first fraternity to eliminate pledging, Yulish said.

“Pledging was a window of opportunity that allowed hazing to occur,” he said.

“We wanted to make our best attempt to eradicate hazing. Hazing is dangerous. It’s demeaning and degrading.”

Tau Kappa Epsilon is the last fraternity that came to the University, said Paul Horner, the president of the Interfraternity Council and a Minnesota Daily employee. It takes a year or two for fraternities to become established on campus, he said.

The process of establishing a fraternity on campus can be a difficult one, said Scott Bush, a founding member and president of the University’s Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter.

“There’s just a lot of growing pains,” he said. “When you start out, your members are mostly freshmen and sophomores. So you have a group of guys who are immature anyways who have to run the whole place.”

Tau Kappa Epsilon came to the University in March 2002 and is petitioning to become a member of the Interfraternity Council, Bush said.

“At first we didn’t want to join IFC, but we realized we needed to,” he said.

“They make fraternities legitimate,” Bush said.

The council helps fraternities recruit new members and provides campus connections, Bush said.

“We are the voice for Greek fraternities on campus,” Horner said.

Fraternities must register with the Student Activities Office and set up a series of meetings with the Interfraternity Council to become members, he said.

During the meetings, the council assesses the fraternity’s involvement in the community and philanthropic and academic planning, Horner said.

“Those meetings are to make sure members are quality members,” he said.

Fraternities that want to join the Interfraternity Council must have at least 35 members with a cumulative GPA of 2.75, Horner said. Those are the only tangible numbers the council looks at, he said.

“The others are all judgment calls,” he said.