Students seek balance and friends in fraternity

Freshman Anthony Balistrieri rushed into the Hippodrome after an invigorating game of snow football with his newest friends – his fraternity brothers.

At first Balistrieri quietly sat next to his brothers and attentively listened to them reveal the nuances of brotherhood and the rewards of community service.

Balistrieri is the president of GW’s newest fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon. Along with his brothers, some of whom are also freshmen, Balistrieri is attempting to change perceptions about fraternity life. Sigma Phi Epsilon’s national organization led the latest initiatives to curb fraternity behavior and erase misperceptions by launching the Balanced Man Project. GW’s newly formed chapter has signed onto the project.

The national organization planted the seeds of the Balanced Man Project in a vision statement written in 1989. By 1992, existing chapters began to implement the Balanced Man Project, a four-year membership development program that replaced traditional pledging practices.

Pledging and initiation are eliminated, and members are considered brothers immediately.

We see no reason to tear someone down because we want to accept excellent individuals in the first place, said Drew Holland, vice president of Programming. We don’t have to make them regress.

Unlike traditional pledging rituals, which can last as long as a semester, the Balanced Man Project lasts for four years. The program aims to create well-rounded individuals, Holland said.

Members are paired off with a mentor, usually an older brother. GW’s chapter was formed this year, and as a result, members of the same age and rank in the fraternity were paired together.

Balanced men must complete three challenges – the Sigma, Phi and Epsilon challenges. The Sigma Challenge is to adjust and assimilate into the chapter and campus community. The Phi Challenge is to understand the benefits of fraternalism, and the Epsilon Challenge is to explore the issues a leader faces.

The requirements of each challenge, which include philanthropic events, community meetings and academic conditions, are outlined in a book called The Quest: A Journey of Brotherhood. Members keep track of the requirements, maintain a journal and read poetry in this guidebook.

(The Balanced Man Project) is Sig Ep’s answer to moving fraternities into the next millennium, Holland said. He said the project calls for a return to virtue, diligence and brotherly love.

Though the project has received criticism at other universities, fellow GW students have only expressed praise and enthusiasm, Holland said.

This shows there’s more to fraternities than getting drunk on the weekends and hanging out all the time, Holland said.

In its first months on campus, Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers have had academic success, which is part of the Balanced Man Project. Last semester, the fraternity had about a 3.2, the highest average grade point average among GW fraternities.

Balistrieri frequented other fraternity rush events before choosing Sigma Phi Epsilon. He said fraternity members at every house he visited told him to look around the room because all the men present would be his best friends if he joined.

Balistrieri began to realize he had the power to choose, he said. When he met his potential brothers at Sigma Phi Epsilon, he said the search was over.

I chose my best friends, Balistrieri said.

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