Sigma Chi has built a dynasty within the Student Association.
Ashwin Narla, the winner of last week’s presidential runoff, will be the fraternity’s third consecutive member to hold the highest student post – a position that brings campus-wide visibility to the chapter. Sigma Chi, though one of the oldest fraternities on campus, has seen a recent jump in membership, coinciding with its stronghold in the SA. In the past four years, the chapter has seen a 65 percent spike in members.
Current SA President John Richardson said that when he joined as a freshman in 2009, the chapter had 33 members and doubled its size with that fall’s pledge class. This year, Sigma Chi has more than 100 members.
The fall that Richardson joined, the chapter had just opened its private townhouse at 22 and F streets. Last spring, the chapter added a second location on Townhouse Row to accommodate its growth.
The chapter’s president Michael Katz said selectivity has heightened as well.
“I don’t think you can pinpoint a specific cause for this. It’s not a tangible thing,” Katz said. He said the “high profile” leadership positions have demonstrated the chapter’s commitment to the community, but he argued that more factors were involved in the chapter’s growing reputation.
“We attract people who like to give back to the community in various ways. Running for SA president is just one way to do that,” Katz said.
Katz, a member of Sigma Chi since his freshman year, said he has handed out palm cards for the last three SA presidents: Narla, Richardson and Jason Lifton. Out of the 90 members on campus this spring, Katz said “every single person helped out the best way they could,” largely concentrating their efforts on Facebook and Twitter outreach.
Narla beat out John Bennett, a member of the growing Beta Theta Pi fraternity, in the Student Association runoff election Thursday, carrying 53 percent of the vote over Bennett’s 47 percent.
Bennett was the first of Beta Theta Pi to run for president.
Greek letter organizations – with their loyalty and listservs – have long been a mark of candidates seeking spots in the SA. Last year, the runoff came down to Sigma Chi’s Richardson and Phi Kappa Psi’s Chris Clark.
“Being a member of Sigma Chi definitely did help me, but it’s important not to define people by the fraternity they’re in,” Narla said, adding that his brothers are involved in many other campus organizations.
Lifton, who has known Narla for three years, said Narla approached him before elections began to field advice about creating a platform and launching a campaign. The 2010 graduate said he had “nothing to do with [Narla] deciding to run.”
While noting the leadership skills of Sigma Chi members, Richardson denied any kind of institutional legacy that has helped propel them to the top.
“We don’t just sit around smoking cigars deciding who’s going to win,” he said.
Director of Greek Life Christina Witkowicki said Sigma Chi’s SA success shows how members of Greek life on campus pass along their interest for certain organizations to younger members of their chapter.
“I think it is a clear demonstration of the role modeling and mentorship that occurs within our fraternities and sororities,” Witkowicki said. “They share common interests, get to know each other, get to know the organizations, and those younger students tend to then join that organization.”
Unlike the general elections, which included five candidates competing for the top spot, Beta Theta Pi chapter president Colin O’Brien said the second race seemed more like a battle between the two chapters.
“We were in that ‘frat mindset.’ We were really thinking about Sigma Chi as our competition,” he said. O’Brien compared the SA elections to Greek Week, an annual fall event pitting chapters against one another in campus-wide programming.
“It was almost our whole chapter running for that position,” he said.