50 years later, Chi Psi fraternity returns to Yale

Frats
Photo by Chi Psi Fraternity.

Twenty-two freshmen and four juniors have reactivated Yale’s chapter of Chi Psi, a national fraternity that had roughly active 300 members before dissolving in 1963.

Fraternity President Michael Herbert ’16, who was familiar with Chi Psi’s chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder, initiated the effort to recruit members last October following a visit from Chi Psi national representatives last year to gauge interest in forming a new chapter. After hosting its first mixer in Durfee Hall in March, the fraternity plans to hold a party open to all undergraduates to “debut into the social scene at Yale” in Vanderbilt Hall on April 5, Harrison Miller ’16 said. Fraternity members interviewed said Chi Psi will be different from existing fraternities because it emphasizes brotherhood above social aspects.

“Chi Psi [brings] a new facet to the Yale Greek-life experience, not so much party-oriented but to develop a brotherhood in which members improve themselves,” Miller said. “We’re going to have parties and we’re going to have fun, but we really want to foster cohesion.”

Representatives from Chi Psi national have been considering reopening a Yale chapter since January 2012, when Leadership Consultant for the Chi Psi Fraternity Justin Froeber visited campus and concluded a new chapter had the potential to form within the next few years. On Tuesday, Assistant Executive Director of Chi Psi national Bradley Breskin will arrive in New Haven to check in with current Chi Psi members and meet Yale administrators.

So far, Chi Psi leaders have not worked closely with other fraternities, Herbert said, adding that he is not very familiar with the campus Greek scene because he is a freshman. At a meeting with administrators and Greek life leaders in February, he said other fraternity leaders advised him to “find the kind of person you’re looking for.” But Herbert said he thinks Chi Psi is unique because its brothers come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

“One of the things that’s big for us — we want to avoid being a fraternity that only picks from one pool,” Herbert said. “If you took the guys rushing our fraternity and made them rush another fraternity on campus, I think you’d get a lot of diversity.”

The fraternity is not affiliated with any particular athletic team, and the majority of its members are not varsity athletes, Herbert added. Their current membership includes a few Reserve Officers’ Training Corps members, several members of the Yale Political Union’s Tory Party, a member of the Freshman Class Council, and two members of Yale’s club skeet and trap team, he said.

Members are planning other events that teach life skills in addition to incorporating social aspects, such as a course on dining etiquette and a cocktail party with faculty members, said Gary Sharp ’16, the standards and risk-management chair.

The group plans to take few risks with throwing parties this year and hopes to build up a trusting relationship with the administrators. The group has already become the only fraternity registered with the Dean’s Office, said Miller, the group’s social chair.

“I would be very surprised if the University imposed anything that is different from what we already expect our men to do in terms of risk-management and safety,” Froeber said.

Herbert said he senses that in the past, other fraternities and administrators have had issues of trust and that he hopes Chi Psi will be able to build up goodwill with the University.

Students will be taking a risk in joining a “startup frat,” Miller said, but he believes that the appeal of their mission and their legacy at Yale will help the fraternity’s success.

Yale’s Chi Psi chapter has roughly 300 to 400 living alumni which could significantly help the fraternity’s finances. Herbert started a “Million Dollar Mission” for the fraternity that aims to raise a million dollars from alumni donations to fund events and eventually a fraternity house. The fraternity began receiving emails showing interest in financial support from alumni before its current members had even started to reach out for the fundraising campaign, Sharp said. The fraternity also hopes to receive funding from the University, he added.

Founded in 1924, the Yale chapter of Chi Psi counts former Secretary of the Treasury Nicholas Brady ’52 and a former publisher of Time Henry Luce III ’45 among its alumni.

Correction: March 28

A previous version of this article misidentified the founder of Time Inc. Henry Luce II ’20 as an alumnus of the Yale chapter of Chi Psi. It also mistakenly stated that Yale’s Chi Psi chapter has the largest alumni network of any chapter. In fact, it had the largest alumni base until about 10 years, when it was overtaken by two other chapters. In addition, the article misstated the number of living alumni. The chapter has 508 living alumni, not 300 to 400. 

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