GW is looking to add its 16th fraternity, and an Interfraternity Council vote in the next week will begin to narrow down the list of potential chapters.
The IFC voted to add a chapter about one month ago, after more than half of the students who signed up for fall rush – about 250 total – ended up not joining a fraternity, said Peyton Zere, IFC president. Two years ago, about 28 percent of students who registered for rush did not join a fraternity.
“We’re registering more kids, which is a great thing, but it also means that [some are] not finding their home,” Zere said.
About 300 students were offered bids to chapters last fall. That was about the same number that joined fraternities the previous year, though about 415 had registered for rush that year.
Zere said the IFC, made up of chapter presidents and seven members of an executive board, is “sifting through support letters” from interested national organizations and talking to students on campus about potential options. The group will whittle down its list to about three chapters within a week.
Once those chapters are selected, representatives from their national organization will come to GW to make pitches to the IFC and try to show why they would be a good fit for campus.
He declined to say what chapters the group is considering, but said Greek leaders are looking for fraternities with “strong national support” and ties to local alumni. Zere said the new chapter could hold rush on campus as early as next fall.
Matt Zahn, the president of Beta Theta Pi, said adding a new chapter to campus would help Greek life in “a number of ways.”
“I think in some sense it will open the community to a new group of people that might not have sought it out before,” Zahn said. “Every organization has its own set of values, and a new chapter will be an opportunity to introduce a new mindset to the community as a whole.”
Greek life at GW is known for attracting students who are involved in other organizations on campus, compared to more traditional Greek populations at Southern schools. But some of those large Southern schools, like the University of Virginia, University of Georgia and University of Alabama, have nearly double the number of fraternities.
Zere said Greek leaders would reach out to the 250 students who rushed but did not join a fraternity this fall to tell them that a new chapter may be established.
“We’re thinking about just informing them that this is happening – ‘If you weren’t happy with the options in the fall, why don’t you check this new option out?’” Zere said.
Sigma Chi President Eric Estroff said presidents of some smaller fraternities at GW have voiced concerns that a 16th chapter could hurt their already-low rush numbers. But he said it would take time for a new fraternity to establish itself enough to become a threat.
“In a year or two, it could affect some of the smaller chapters’ intake – I’d be silly to think it wouldn’t,” Estroff said. “But adding another fraternity will just encourage more guys to come out to rush, and it makes it interesting for guys who may not have considered fraternities.”
About a dozen other fraternity presidents contacted by The Hatchet did not return requests for comment.
Estroff also said the IFC is looking at fraternities that have been on campus in the past. He said re-starting a chapter is “definitely a positive” because existing alumni connections can help a new fraternity get settled or purchase a townhouse.
Alpha Epsilon Pi is the most recent fraternity to leave after the University kicked it off campus last winter for 17 counts of hazing, drug and alcohol violations. A spokesman at the national organization said he did not know whether the chapter was looking to become officially recognized at GW again.
At least three other fraternities contacted by The Hatchet said they would be interested in coming to GW.
Theta Delta Chi, which left campus several years ago because of low membership, is now in touch with alumni about coming back to GW. The fraternity made a timeline with the University to get back on campus by 2016, and has been talking with officials about returning since the summer, its executive director Richard Wood said.
A GW student also contacted Zeta Psi about coming to campus last month, said Tyler Boisvert, director of chapter services. He declined to name the student and said there have been no further conversations. Zeta Psi has a chapter at American University.
Kappa Alpha, Zere’s fraternity, joined GW in 2011. Sigma Alpha Epsilon also returned to campus that year after operating as an unrecognized chapter for more than two decades.
Zere said adding another chapter is an opportunity for current students to take leadership roles and build a fraternity from the ground up.
“You’re not walking into a 120-person chapter and trying to make a name for yourself,” Zere said.
The Panhellenic Association, which governs sorority life, helped open a chapter of Kappa Delta on campus two years ago after it left in 1968. Chi Omega returned to campus in 2008.
Zere said Greek life officials at GW would try to ensure a smooth transition once the new fraternity arrives.
“It’s not the easiest of things to just arrive and start recruiting kids. You have to really get to know the advisers, know kind of what your limits are, because every school has different recruitment rules,” Zere said.
Officials at GW “regularly receive requests” from national organizations about adding chapters to campus, University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said.
“Expanding the number of organizations in a Greek community can help to provide more diverse options for students seeking Greek affiliation,” she said.
Kyle Martin, coordinator of IFC services at the North-American Interfraternity Conference, said though the process for adding a fraternity varies at each school, alumni can often play a role in helping grow the chapter once it is started.
“Many alumni from this group may be excited to see their organization back on campus and be willing to contribute their time in mentoring, attending events and advising the organization,” Martin said.
He added that the North-American Interfraternity Conference, which supervises all fraternities, has not yet been in touch with anyone at GW about adding a fraternity to campus.
“We do encourage partnership between organizations and universities as both parties have the students’ best interest in mind,” Martin said.
Colleen Murphy contributed reporting.