The national fraternity Alpha Sigma Phi is putting its efforts to establish a Yale Alpha Sig chapter “on pause,” according to Geoff McDonald, the organization’s coordinator of chapter and colony development.
McDonald, who began recruitment efforts on campus Jan. 9, said he left campus Jan. 29, 11 days earlier than scheduled. His departure brought a premature end to the fraternity’s official recruitment efforts, which had failed to garner sufficient student interest in creating a new chapter, and marked one of the first times Alpha Sig has not successfully expanded to one of its target universities. Though McDonald is no longer on campus, he said the fraternity will continue to support the three Yale students who have expressed interest in serving as founding members.
“We haven’t closed the door at Yale and don’t think we ever really will,” he said. “We had a great group of a few individuals [interested in starting a chapter]; however, we could not really gain traction outside of these individuals.”
Though McDonald said Alpha Sig has seen a 98 percent success rate with past chapter expansion, he said official recruitment efforts at Yale were particularly difficult.
The University does not have a student center or other “heavily trafficked” areas to post fliers, McDonald said, and also lacks “inter-fraternity councils” — umbrella organizations present at many other universities that bring together campus fraternity leaders. He said these councils often have official rush lists, which have helped him organize recruitment and expansion activities in the past.
Though Yale currently does not have an inter-fraternity council, the Advisory Committee on Campus Climate recommended in its November report that the University create “leadership councils” to encourage discussion and collaboration among different fraternities, and administrators met with Greek life leaders last semester to discuss the possibility of forming such an organization. Fraternity leaders interviewed in November were resistant to the idea, which they felt would give administrators too much oversight of their organizations, the majority of which are not registered with the Yale College Dean’s Office.
But if Alpha Sig were to come to campus, the chapter would consider becoming a registered undergraduate organization, said Scott Eisner ’14, one of its three potential founding members. Eisner said he and another student interested in founding a chapter, Christopher Zeng ’14, are hoping to recruit another 10 to 15 students before formally reaching out to administrators. He added that he hopes additional student support will give the initiative more “leverage” in discussions with University officials.
“Right now, we need to find people who want to [help start a chapter], who are willing to do it, who will be good fits so we have something to take to the administration,” Eisner said.
McDonald said he found Yale’s Greek system to be more independent from the administration than is typical. He said the few administrators he approached about possibly creating an Alpha Sig chapter were open to the idea, but did not actively take steps to support it. Administrators at other universities have tended to be more engaged in fraternity processes, he added.
“With Yale, it wasn’t necessarily a ‘We don’t want to help,’ but a ‘We don’t really have the resources to help,’” McDonald said.
Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said in a January interview that the Dean’s Office would be “receptive” to new campus organizations if students expressed interest.
But so far, student interest at Yale has been limited.
McDonald said the average founding class of a chapter usually consists of 20 to 30 students, adding that he recruited 56 founding members at the University of Arizona.
“The Yale class is definitely smaller than what we would’ve liked or would have anticipated,” he said. “But we have to keep reminding ourselves that [Alpha Sig] started at three members originally. Maybe that’s the magic number at Yale.”
Alpha Sig was founded at Yale 167 years ago as a sophomore literary society.
Correction: Feb. 11
A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Nicholas Ribovich ’14 as interested in helping to form an Alpha Sigma Phi chapter at Yale.