Frat eyes expansion to Yale

Leaders of Greek organizations presented a proposal to administrators Thursday drafting preliminary details of the ban on Greek organizations’ freshman fall rush period.
Leaders of Greek organizations presented a proposal to administrators Thursday drafting preliminary details of the ban on Greek organizations’ freshman fall rush period. Photo by Christopher Peak.

Students hoping to join a fraternity may have an additional group to consider rushing in coming years.

Geoff McDonald, coordinator of chapter and colony development for Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, said he has been reaching out to students with fliers and Facebook messages since Jan. 9 in an effort to establish an Alpha Sig chapter at Yale. McDonald said he hopes a new chapter would attract students who want to be part of a social organization on campus but have not yet “found their match.” Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said the Dean’s Office is “receptive” to new groups if students show interest on campus, adding that he is “in the business of helping guide and advise student organizations.”

McDonald, who will remain on campus until Feb. 8, said Alpha Sig has expanded to over 30 campuses since 2008, and efforts to start a chapter have failed only once during that period. He added that fraternity currently has 94 chapters total.

Though McDonald said he is optimistic that he can recruit students to start a new chapter on campus, he added that he recognizes the possibility of additional “road blocks” at Yale because of the University’s recent efforts to increase oversight of undergraduate organizations. For example, Yale College Dean Mary Miller announced in an email last month that administrators will institute mandatory training sessions at the end of January to teach effective leadership strategies and proper responses to incidents of sexual misconduct and hazing.

McDonald said he hopes that the fraternity registers with the Dean’s Office. He added that the new chapter would place a special focus on academics and community service and that most Alpha Sig chapters across the country are recognized by their university administrators.

Four fraternity presidents interviewed noted that garnering student interest for a new fraternity can be challenging, though they said they did not think a new fraternity would significantly affect their groups’ daily activities. Some added that they would welcome the presence of more Greek life at Yale.

“I’m excited to have more Greek organizations on campus because the experience has been very positive … but [starting a new fraternity] is a really long process,” said Brian Ruwe ’13, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. “I don’t think that most people understand all the red tape that goes into creating a fraternity and maintaining it and keeping it running.”

McDonald said founding members of Alpha Sig chapters must satisfy a series of requirements to form an official chapter, such as establishing a budget, organizing an initial philanthropy event and creating a schedule of activities. The entire process usually takes about nine to 12 months, he added.

Lucy Chen ’14, vice president of outgoing exchange for AIESEC Yale, an organization on campus that provides students with international internship opportunities, said she met with McDonald this month at his request to discuss the potential for a new chapter. Though she said she thinks that McDonald’s vision for an Alpha Sig chapter would cater to a “niche of guys who aren’t in frats and who are looking for something different,” she added that she thinks it may be difficult to garner administrators’ approval given recent controversy surrounding Yale’s sexual climate and the ongoing Title IX investigation.

Alpha Sig’s efforts to establish a chapter on campus marks an attempt by the fraternity to “go back to its roots,” McDonald said, since it was founded at Yale 166 years ago as a sophomore literary society. McDonald said the group disbanded after membership declined in the years following World War II.

“This is why coming back to Yale is so important,” McDonald said of the fraternity’s historical origins.

After recruiting at Yale, McDonald said he will visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an effort to establish a chapter at that university.

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