New Fraternities Diversify Greek Life at GU
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 22:09
The first few weeks of fall semester are always a whirl of activity for student groups; club leaders rush around campus, attempting to establish their organizations’ appeal to wide-eyed freshmen and uncommitted upperclassmen.
This is especially true for Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity founded in February by a group of 24 then-freshmen, which is now trying to recruit its second-ever class of pledges.
SAE leaders say that operating as an upstart fraternity on a campus that does not recognize Greek organizations comes with a unique set of challenges.
Though fraternities’ primary appeal is usually the opportunity to be a part of a historic organization, SAE’s founders must find a way to raise awareness and recruit new members without the benefit of long-standing traditions and institutional memory.
“One thing that distinguishes us from [other Greek organizations] is the fact that we’re new and building this from the ground up,” Recruitment Chair Nick Baker (COL ’15) said. “They’ve settled into their ways, and we’re hitting our stride and figuring out what this group’s going to become.”
But before new fraternities can focus on what they aim to become, they must first find a way to establish themselves on campus.
Due to the university’s dissociation between the university and Greek life, students who lead fraternities and sororities at Georgetown rely on assistance from their respective national organizations.
“Since last fall, when I started making phone calls, we haven’t gone through the university at any [time],” Christian Keenum (MSB ’15), founder of Georgetown’s SAE colony, said. “We’ve tried our best to see what other fraternities and nonrecognized groups are doing so we don’t push any boundaries.”
According to Keenum, SAE sought advice from Adelfi, a female group on campus that was founded in a similar manner in 2004, during the beginning stages of its venture last year. “We’ve had help from Adelfi, asking them how you deal with [different topics] … so we don’t make Georgetown angry.”
Similarly, unofficial faculty advisors and local brothers helped the founding members of Phi Iota Alpha, a local chapter of a national Latino fraternity, establish a presence on campus last spring.
“We’ve experienced a ton of alumni support in the area,” the PIA President Christian Veliz (COL ’14) said. “They provide resources for us that we hope to expand to campus.”
Veliz said he decided to launch the fraternity at Georgetown in an effort to provide more institutional support for Latino students.
“We all felt a bit of discontent with the [Latino] community here,” he said. “Our organization prides itself on preservation and promotion of Latin American culture, and it’s based on the idea of pan-Americanism.”
Meanwhile, Keenum’s goal of establishing a chapter of SAE at Georgetown arose from a personal connection.
“My brother was [in] SAE at the University of Michigan, and when I looked around for fraternities, I really liked what SAE modeled: the true gentleman,” he said. “The ‘true gentleman’ is basically the ideal that SAE lives and dies by. It defines the characteristics that every SAE brother must uphold.”
Last fall, Keenum first began the process of fostering an SAE presence on campus by gauging his peers’ level of interest in the project.
“I started a Facebook thread among all my friends to see if they were interested in helping me start SAE at Georgetown,” Keenum said.
Keenum initiated a conversation with the SAE national advisers in response to enthusiastic feedback about his idea, and SAE Eminent Supreme Archon — the national president of SAE — Ken Tracey later visited campus.
While still only a colony, SAE plans to gain charter status in the spring of 2013. According to Keenum, becoming chartered is an 18- to 24-month process; however, the colony believes it can attain its goal within 12 months.
“[The national organization] provides us with goals that we have to meet for each month,” Keenum said. “Currently, for the next three to four weeks, our goal is to get good quality men to join our colony and educate them on the rules and values of SAE.”