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The Greek Life

Dispatches from Fraternity Row

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Greeks: Situation is a call to action

Currently, the future of the Interfraternity (IFC) and Panhellenic Council (PHC) Associate Vice President (AVP) positions on THON’s Overall Committee is uncertain. 


However, this situation should not be a time for hostility – such action is not befitting of our community nor is in the best interest of our cause.  Rather, we should question the nature of this issue and what we can do to resolve it–not only in our best interest, but in the best interest of THON and, most importantly, the kids. 

We should view this moment as an opportunity to bring the discussion and the first steps of aggressive and positive change to our community.

As just over 10 percent of the student population, Greeks raised roughly 40 percent of the total money donated to THON. 

We firmly believe that the IFC and PHC AVP positions should be a part of the THON Overall Committee. Yet, at the same time, we recognize the need for proactive ideas to shape the roles and responsibilities of the positions.  To achieve this, IFC and PHC have called for the creation of a joint committee, which will actively collaborate with the THON Overall Committee to bring substance to the positions.

In an act of good faith–and with the interest of the kids in mind–Greeks before us never treated THON as a Greek-only philanthropy event. Because of our willingness to be inclusive, THON has grown and flourished beyond even its founders’ expectations and dreams.  At this time, with this same faith and the principles Greeks founded THON upon in mind, we call upon our community to strengthen our relationship with the organization we hold so dearly in our hearts and minds. 

When thoughtful and creative ideas are brought to the table we can only trust that they will be heard and that the same good faith will shown to us in return.

Opportunity is born out of this time of uncertainty. In 1973, Greeks created THON. In 2009, Greeks have the opportunity to make it better.

This article was contributed by the Executive Council members of the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council.  Luke Pierce is the President of the Interfraternity Council and can be reached by e-mail at wlp5006@gmail.com.  Mairys Joaquin is the President of the Panhellenic Council and can be reached by e-mail at mgj5004@psu.edu.

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Acacia Fraternity ‘One Of The Leaders’ At Penn State

Acacia fraternity held a special dinner last night which President Graham Spanier, Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims and Director for Greek Life Roy Baker attended. Acacia held the dinner as a “thank you” for an earlier dinner at Mr. Spanier’s house this semester.

This article, which appeared today in The Daily Collegian, offers one more great example of how greek life at Penn State is on the verge of a renaissance. In this rare instance, Safeguard Old State and Mr. Spanier can both agree: Acacia represents “one of the leaders” in greek life at our university.

Spanier Eats Dinner At Acacia FraternityThe Daily Collegian – “Yes, you have great parties,” [Roy] Baker said. “But you also raise a lot of money, do a lot of service, do a lot of good.” He added that Acacia “consistently helps us change the fraternity culture at Penn State.”

Acacia member Jared Wolfe (senior-biochemistry) said he had misconceptions about fraternity life before coming to Penn State.

“Fraternities do have their problems,” he said. “Being able to develop positive aspects of fraternities would really benefit the greek system.”

Sims said it is important for fraternities to reach out to the Penn State community to dispel misconceptions about greek life, adding administrators want to help support greek life at the university.

“If any fraternity on this campus fails, it’s our failure, too,” he said. “It’s very important for you to know you have a place where can seek such support.”

Over the past few months, I’ve grown to appreciate immensely the unique contributions of various leaders in greek life at Penn State. High on my list is Luke Pierce, head of SAE.

Luke appreciates the special relationship his fraternity must have with the wider campus and community if it is to be successful, and has a remarkable grasp of the kind of long-term strategic thinking necessary for the continued success of his fraternity.

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What Are You, Greek?

Let’s face it: these are not the golden years of Greek Life at Penn State.

That’s not to say this is the dark ages of Fraternity and Sorority Life, either. No, quite the contrary.

The 1950s, 60s, 70s and early 80s were the pinnacle of Greek Life at Penn State. Greeks enjoyed an experience that was life-changing, enriching their undergraduate experience and molding freshmen boys and girls into Greek men and women. Those who joined the Greek community shared traditions and experiences which had been in place for, in some instances, more than 50 years.

Today, however, things are different on Fraternity Row.

On many campuses nationwide, the image of Greek Life fell hard as the keg-standing, roofie-dropping Animal House replaced Fraternity Chapter Houses, leaving only a specter of the organization that truly belonged.

Denying the existence of this once popular stereotype is unrealistic.  However, to say that this image is still being encouraged and perpetuated at Penn State today is insane.

Under the leadership of the current Interfraternity Council (IFC) Executive Board and the Director for Greek Life, Dr. Roy Baker, the Greek community has taken great strides in the advancement of the traditions which their organizations hold most dearly.  Fraternity used to mean something, and the leaders of Penn State Greek Life are realizing this.

And while Greek organizations are now using the social aspect of Greek Life to further sell potential membership, know that we don’t have to.

No, today, the Greek experience is enriching the lives of thousands of students who choose to embrace this spirit of change and the challenges it brings.  And starting today new members are being recruited.  September 8 marked the beginning of the Fall IFC Recruitment Period.

The future of the Greek community rests in the hands of its current leaders to select good men to further Greek Life and the values which each Fraternity espouses.  This year the Recruitment process is focusing on providing quality interaction with potential members and will provide potential members greater exposure to all of the Greek organizations on campus.

As a concerned leadership selects a group of like-minded men for candidates for membership, the rate at which positive change and commitment occur will grow.  Educated by these leaders, new members will one day lead their respective organizations with greater care than their predecessors.  The current cycle is firming.

Registration for Fall Recruitment are nearly double the final Fall Recruitment numbers for the previous year.  The buzz around Greek Life is undeniable.

What other place would better serve as a breeding ground for the future leaders of Penn State than Greek Life?  Greek Life offers you the chance to develop lifelong friends, bound together in brotherhood.

Of the $6.6-million raised for the 2008 Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon the some 5,200 Greek students raised $2.5-million.  That means the other 37,800 odd independent students didn’t even double the efforts with $4.1-million raised.

Greek Life may have seen a bottom in our life time.  Today, however, the future is bright.  

This re-invigoration of the values and traditions of the Golden Years in Greek Life at Penn State will, I promise you, prove to be successful.  And you can be a part of it.  Go Greek.

Luke Pierce is a contributor to Safeguard Old State. He is the President of the Penn State Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and is the Director of Greek Life and Outreach for the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA). He can be reached via e-mail.

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Will Spanier Destroy The House That Atherton Built?

Over the past few weeks, there has been much controversy over Phi Delta Theta, with everyone from Dr. Roy Baker, Director for Greek Life, to Gavin Keirans, PSU Student Body President, chiming in to make their voice heard. In fact, the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA), unanimously passed a resolution calling for the administration to back off its overly aggressive attempts to acquire the brothers’ house.

A number of us here at Safeguard Old State have chimed in on the matter, and I’d like to take this opportunity to offer some background on why we are advocating, first, for the brothers’ to be given a second chance, and second, for the administration at Penn State to preserve their house rather than demolish it if the brothers do end up being evicted later this summer.

So, again, we are not condoning the misdeeds of the brothers at Phi Delta Theta, but supporting them out of a belief that they deserve a second chance. While I am not a member of any fraternity, I am a great admirer of the Greek system and the contributions of the Greek community over the course of our history at Penn State. These contributions include the early development of a strong tradition of pride in ourselves and pride in our community here in Happy Valley.

We hope the brothers at Phi Delta Theta are able to resolve their dispute with their national chapter and regain their charter with Penn State University. I don’t mean to condone their misdeeds or their breaking of the rules, because that’s not something any of us at Safeguard Old State were happy to hear.

More than anything it’s important for us at Safeguard Old State that the house at 241 South Burrowes Street not be destroyed if the administration obtains control of the land. Their house was completed in 1905; it has graced the face of our campus with its stately presence and architectural beauty for over 100 years, and was finished in time for President George Atherton to admire its beauty before he died a year later.

I often find myself talking about the importance of preserving our traditions at this University. I do this because, while I appreciate that customs and people change with each generation, it’s our common traditions that help unite each class of Penn Staters as one body and buttress our faith in this school as genuinely unparalleled.

Our common spirit is embodied in the traditions we share with our alumni and will share with future generations of Penn Staters. These traditions, flowing out from that common spirit and certain universally held values, have survived world wars and riots, protests and controversy, near financial ruin and the rise of the modern land-grant University as a powerhouse among its peers throughout the nation.

Do we now, in this Nittany Valley, accept that the traditions and values we have held dear since practically our founding are now fit for the bulldozer?

To be a Penn Stater is to celebrate that certain values are timeless, even if not certain institutions, from our faith in the importance of the Greek system and the way of life and thinking it makes possible for so many students, or our love of student initiative and its historically transformative power to give rise to everything from student philanthropies like the Dance Marathon to student newspapers like The Daily Collegian to student radio like The LION 90.7fm.

So it is with a deep appreciation of these universally held and deeply moving values in youthful student initiative, sportsmanship, fair place, academic excellence and the genuine pursuit of excellence in discovering truth through a liberal and practical education that we call on the administration to stay true to these values that have built and nourished Penn State as we now it.

In this instance, that will mean preserving and restoring the house that Atherton built if the brothers at Phi Delta Theta should lose their appeal and the administration comes to legally acquire the property. That house represents something greater than mere brick and mortar, and to destroy it would to go one step further down the dark road in dismantling and disgracing the physically and historically significant parts of a glorious University campus.

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Phi Delta Theta Pres. Kevin Haslam on The LION 90.7fm

I don’t mean to inundate the blogs with media appearances from The LION 90.7fm, but I do want to feature one other recent interview that is relevant to one of the campus controversies to which we’ve been devoting ongoing coverage.

As readers of Safeguard Old State’s Greek blog will know, we’ve been covering Phi Delta Theta’s struggle to regain their charter and recognition from both their national headquarters and the administration at Penn State University.

On April 24, The LION 90.7fm’s public affairs talk program, Radio Free Penn State, welcomed Phi Delta Theta President Kevin Haslam on for an exclusive in-depth interview on the entire controversy. The interview last for just over one half hour and is well worth your time if you’re interested in learning more about the greek system in general at Penn State and Phi Delta Theta’s history at our university.

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The Greeks: Ebony & Ivory Week

The National Pan Hellenic Council is comprised of eight chapters: Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho.

The brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. started a tradition 25 years ago called Ebony & Ivory Week, and they have continued to make this tradition a successful annual event. One of the main goals of Ebony and Ivory Week is to bring together the Penn State Community through holding a week worth of programs from Monday to Thursday, in addition to a social event at the end of the week.

They attempt to address issues related to race and bringing people of all colors together to celebrate being different and what we can learn from our differences. Alpha Phi Alpha is at the forefront in building the bridge between NPHC and the rest of the Greek community along with getting the Penn State community involved in promoting race relations.

Since the Greek community is highly regarded on this campus they use this to their advantage to diffuse the boundaries of color and work towards a better tomorrow for those in the present and our future offspring.

This year, Alpha Phi Alpha has teamed up with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Delta Sigma Iota Fraternity, Chi Upsilon Sigma Sorority, and Delta Zeta Sorority to make Ebony and Ivory week a great success.

It will be held from March 31 – April 3 for a couple of hours each day. More information on the times of each day will come soon!!

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For The Kids

Well, we’re at the last canning weekend before the 2008 IFC/Panhellenic Dance MaraTHON which will be held from February 22-24th.

If you go to Penn State, you definitely know what THON is and know what it’s all about. BUT, for those of you who might not, THON is an amazing fundraiser that students not only from University Park participate in, but students from the other commonwealth campuses as well. All of the money raised at THON is transferred to The Four Diamonds Fund to help those diagnosed with cancer at the Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, PA.

All of the sororities pair up with a fraternity, and many different organizations leave Penn State for four weekends during the school year to can anywhere from Canada to Maryland. What does it mean to “can”?? It means that students go to various intersections or strip malls with cans asking people for money to support this great cause.

1973 marked the first year to have THON and it was held in the HUB raising over $2,000. THON has been expanding ever since and has been moved from the HUB to the White Building to Rec Hall and then to the Bryce Jordan Center for it’s second year. Penn State’s THON has become the largest student-run philanthropy in the world and in 2007, we raised $5,240,385.17. The most yet!!

My sorority pairs up with Delta Tau Delta and have two THON children, Dylan Moser (8 years old) and Allison Smoluk (17 years old). This is Allison’s first year to be a THON child and it happens to be her 18th birthday on Friday! Last year, our sorority and fraternity were not in the top ten, but did raise $65,000 For The Kids. Zeta Tau Alpha sororityand Alpha Tau Omega fraternity have been the top money raisers for THON for the past 12 years earning $293,591 in 2007.

Even though each sorority/fraternity pair raise money to donate solely from their organizations, I think it’s amazing that Greek Life raises HALF of the money raised at THON.

Good luck this weekend! FTK!!

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Sororities 101

Hi everyone! Seeing how it’s that time again for the Greeks, I thought I’d talk a little bit about recruitment. Every fraternity and sorority goes through recruitment in the fall and takes a new member class to add to their organizations, and many go through it again in the spring. However, fall and spring recruitment are run differently, and seeing as I’m only very educated on how the sororities run it, I’ll only talk about that.

Fall recruitment is a stressful two-week period (and completely dry) where you have all the potential new members register through Panhellenic, and each sorority holds little “parties” in their suite. We call them parties, but what I mean- is having about 20 new girls come in at a time and have them meet about 50 of us and just get to know each other, learn about our philanthropy, etc.

There are 3 rounds (Open Houses, First Rounds, and Second Rounds) of circuiting all the different sororities, each consisting of about 3 days, then Preference Night- where the potential new member attends her three favorite sororities and participates in a nice ceremony/ritual that the sisters have set up. Then of course, you rank your top three while the sororities compile a list of the girls that we want as their sisters, and then Bid Day, the most exciting part, comes.

If you’ve ever been in the HUB in the early Fall and seen hundreds of girls all wearing different colors, holding big signs, and yelling so loud that you probably can’t think? That’s us. All the new girls receive their bid acceptance from the sorority they match up with, and then run out on the lawn to meet them and their newest pledge class. This day is easily the most exciting of any part of recruitment and you get a certain feeling of relief that the two week process is over and won’t return again until the next year.

Then comes spring recruitment. Like I said before, it’s completely different than fall. The sororities who want to participate (everyone doesn’t have to) hold events in their suite and invite girls that they know are interested in joining one. This only continues for about a week with each sorority only holding a few events. This process if FAR less stressful and way more casual than fall.

When they’ve met all of the girls that they want to, they hand out bids to join their spring pledge class! I know almost half of the Panhellenic sororities took spring pledge classes this year and we’re all very happy with them.

In case anyone was wondering how Panhellenic sororities choose their members and how it actually becomes a sorority, there ya go!

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‘Going Greek’: What It Means To Me

I’m Hillary Gupta and I’ll be writing here for the rest of the semester. I’ll start off by giving y’all some info about myself: I’m a sophomore majoring in business marketing and minoring in Spanish. I am very involved with Greek life and the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA). I’ve been an At-Large representative of UPUA for the past two years and am currently the Special Events and Programming Committee Chair. I am also a sister of the Delta Zeta sorority. Last year I was the Risk Manager and I was just installed as the 2008 President.

I have found that being in both UPUA and Greek life has been extremely beneficial for me as a student. I can bring information that I learn in both places to the other. It’s very nice for UPUA to have Greek input seeing as we do make up about 12% of undergraduate life here at Penn State.

Going Greek is one of the best decisions I have ever made and has always been something I wanted to do. I’m from Texas where fraternity/sorority life is HUGE (and completely different) and is very popular to rush. When a student has left for college, the typical order of questions from family friends are in the following order…”How does she like school?” “Does she miss home?” and “What sorority did she pledge?”

It’s completely understood that one has gone Greek. As much as I love everything else that I’m involved in, my sincerest devotion is to Greek life.

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When ‘Sorry’ Isn’t Good Enough

I hate complaining. Even when it is clearly beneficial to find something/someone else to blame for my error(s), I still find it difficult to wholeheartedly believe that I was not, to some degree, responsible for my current state of affairs. What it all comes down to is this: accountability.

Few have it these days. It seems as though, and this is generalizing, that many people feel entitled to their own opinion. This might seem like the pot calling the kettle black, coming from someone broadcasting their voice generically over the internet; however, humor me for a second and understand that I will freely admit when I have erred.

My only request is that the criticisms come from a well positioned and logical viewpoint. While logic may lie in the eye of the beholder, healthy discourse is how we all learn from each other and how I come to know that I’m wrong. That being said, there are instances where it’s fairly obvious a mistake has been made. Take for instance the OSU fan-pelting that took place at Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) fraternity on OSU game day.

I can’t think of anyone who was particularly pleased with being unfairly lumped into a category which condones that sort of behavior – things were even more embarrassing for fraternity members. Most people really can’t tell the difference between all of our organizations.

To some, our letters are the same Greek letters that made lives miserable in math class. That’s not so great for Greeks. It is easy and convenient to lump us all into one big group. That is eternally frustrating. We all have stereotypes. I presented some of my own and of others so far, but what is more important is how we all react in crisis situations. That is where the leadership of Pi Kappa Alpha, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and the Interfraternity Council has been a great boon to our campus.

There are instances where “sorry” just isn’t good enough. If you would have talked to most people on the day the news broke about OSU fans being harassed and assaulted, you wouldn’t find too many people in any fraternity’s corner, let alone Pike’s. The incident will forever be a stain on our football fans and fraternity culture in general. A simple apology wouldn’t make things better and for that matter wouldn’t change things.

The strategy of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, under Dr. Roy Baker, is that of an apology means nothing if you’re going to make the same mistake again. The fraternity was called in and leaders sat down to have a powwow about accountability for ones actions and learning from mistakes. From there, a comprehensive action plan was developed and noticeable steps have been taken to prevent future foul behavior. How brilliant.

My feeling is that it is impossible to eradicate stupidity. That being said, our Greek community stands at the ready with well qualified leadership where it counts and the creativity needed to approach situations and find innovative solutions. As I see it, isolated incidents will remain just that – isolated – giving everyone less to complain about. This is the best of all possible worlds because I hate complaining – not that I’m complaining.