The nine newly initiated members of Chi Phi Fraternity, October 2023. Photo courtesy of Chi Phi Fraternity.
This October, nine Frankin and Marshall students were initiated into the Chi Phi Fraternity. These men, referred to as the “Founding Fathers” of the fraternity, are the first pledge class to join since spring 2019 when the chapter was suspended from the college.
What has changed since their suspension? Following the pandemic, Greek life has undergone a culture shift, as has the College’s social scene. According to Dean of Students Colette Shaw, “There are a lot of things that are different. One of them is us.”
In spring 2019, the College received reports of inappropriate behavior related to hazing and misconduct, including forced consumption of large amounts of alcohol and calisthenics for new members. After an investigation and a hearing, the College found Chi Phi responsible for violation of the campus hazing policy, alcohol and drug policy and college fraternity membership policy, along with failure to comply with reasonable request, dangerous behavior and conduct unbecoming of Franklin & Marshall students. The fraternity was subsequently placed under a suspension that was, at the time, set for five years. “I think this is going to take a while. It’s going to take multiple years to get everyone on the same track,” noted Shaw, who had just returned to the College and Dean of Students that year.
The length of the suspension was due in large part to the culmination of charges set against the fraternity and a lack of support structures within the fraternity, as well as troubling and disrespectful behavior by chapter alumni. Even after the chapter was given a cease and desist order, alumni from various graduation years refused to respect the College’s orders. These behaviors proved to make tensions between the organization and the College even more strained. For the fraternity to have any chance of returning, they could not carry on as they had previously.
Historically, when fraternities have been charged with organizational misconduct, the College has resorted to punitive measures and had no healthy reintegration programs in place. When they do return from suspension, there is still deep-seated distrust between the organization and the College. In the case of Chi Phi, however, Dean Shaw wished to take a different approach to enforce accountability and restore trust between an organization and institution.
In March 2020, when Dean Shaw proposed the concept of restorative justice to the former president of Chi Phi, Kevin McGloin, he was skeptical but hopeful of its efficacy. This practice, which has risen in popularity in schools, seeks to repair harmful behavior and rebuild relationships in the community through efforts involving both the offending organization and the institution. In November of the same year, McGloin and a group of Chi Phi alumni agreed to give the practice a try.
The decision to participate in restorative justice practices did not come without effort from alumni, the College, and national facilitators. Between 2021 and 2023, groups of alumni who were committed to restoring the chapter returned to Lancaster for training retreats that would allow them to serve as advisors and influence the next generation of the fraternity’s men. Over the course of these two years, the alumni learned about hazing prevention, bystander intervention, mental health awareness, and alcohol and substance abuse: all issues that are prominent in chapters nationwide. Jason Santiago, Coordinator of Growth for Chi Phi Nationals noted that while it was tough to remove old habits and the process is daily and ongoing, their discussions showed a gradual shift in how alumni viewed fraternity life.
“There is no room for the old behaviors here from the past,” says Santiago. “We are actively working to raise the standard with a new model of what a fraternity man looks like.”
To return to F&M’s campus, Chi Phi also needed to receive support from the Interfraternity Council (IFC). The two remaining chapters, Phi Kappa Psi and Phi Kappa Sigma, were both mainly supportive of Chi Phi’s return to promote greater opportunities for F&M men and a more vibrant and diverse Greek life on campus.
Finally, in 2023, Chi Phi received approval to recruit its first class of new members. Santiago, along with his colleague Taylor Krivas, Chi Phi Nationals Assistant Director of Undergraduate Services, spent many weeks at F&M looking for individuals who fit the values and standards set in place for the new generation of brothers. The national representatives looked for a group that would want to be leaders, challenge themselves, and have a sense of direction in their lives; all traits essential for “building better men,” as their motto asserts. Santiago said that the fraternity ultimately recruited a diverse group of nine men who were initiated by the brothers of Lehigh University’s Psi chapter.
While the founding fathers are tasked with leading the way for the next generation of Chi Phi men at F&M, they still are under careful watch of the College and national organization. To continue growing and improving, they must send members to leadership conferences at the local and national levels. The Chi Phi house will also not be residential for at least three years. Dean Shaw notes that the men must “prove they can be a chapter based on their values and recruit men who want to be leaders based on character” for their full reinstatement as a residential fraternity.
The return of Chi Phi marks a changing culture for Greek life at F&M and may usher in the return of another organization. Dean Shaw revealed that another fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, is in the process of returning to F&M. The first Delta members would be offered a six-week fellowship involving intensive leadership training and experience before one would decide if they wanted to become a member. The timeline for Delta’s return is not currently set.
When asked about the new culture for fraternity and sorority life at F&M, Dean Shaw was hopeful that Greek organizations on campus will continue to thrive, even in slightly different forms.
“[Greek culture] will be strong… but it will be different,” Shaw says.
Senior Lily Vining is the Managing Editor. Her email is email@example.com.