St Thomas University, University of New Brunswick and their respective student unions are approaching the recent growth of fraternities and sororities with kid gloves. Three Greek letter organizations have sprung up on College Hill since 2012, with another founded in 2002.
Members of a fraternity and a sorority waited outside the Student Union Building during UNB Student Union’s clubs and societies fair Friday to promote their groups, handing out fliers extolling the virtues of Greek life. They set up outside to circumvent a policy that denies use of UNB resources to this type of group.
“A fraternity is an opportunity to do all the things you should strive to do in your student life,” said Kaley Etheridge, vice president of the inaugural Psi Lambda Phi fraternity. “To be engaged socially, to be active in your community, to be strong academically, and it’s all from a network of people that are willing to support you not only through school, but also after graduation.”
Psi Lambda Phi has been recognized by UNBSU rather than ratified, meaning it cannot receive funding. The society has been awaiting word from St. Thomas University Students’ Union on whether it will be officially ratified since the fall.
STUSU vice president of administration Ben Graham said his union is awaiting word from university administration on what its policy says about the new fraternity, despite ratifying Pi Alpha Gamma sorority in November 2012.
“We have some concerns with fraternities operating on campus,” Graham said. “Not this one in particular. But will it create the opportunity for fraternities that we don’t want operating on campus, that come with bad reputations like a lot of them do?”
In 2013, Bloomberg News reported 60 deaths had been linked to fraternities since 2005, a number that can’t come close to the amount of reports of shameful fraternity activities ranging from public indecency to hate speech to rape.
Pi Alpha Gamma founding member Katelyn Rushton said it is unfair to peg Greek letter organizations as a source of reckless behaviour and humiliation for campuses.
“There have been high profile cases of things going wrong and people getting hurt. But Greek life has millions and millions of members from the 1850s until now,” she said.
Rushton said fraternities and sororities have set rules, and individual chapters have been shut down or reset with new members by the parent organization for acting out of line.
Etheridge and Rushton are certain Greek life is good for universities. They strengthen graduates’ bonds to their alma mater, which over time can lead to more and bigger endowments. Last year, members of a chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Western University endowed $250,000 to the school for a series of scholarships.
Currently the three organizations with a relation to St. Thomas – Psi Lambda Phi fraternity, Pi Alpha Gamma sorority and the longest standing sorority, Iota Beta Chi – are allowed to promote and recruit on STU campus and not UNB, while UNB-centred Theta Tau Nu fraternity doesn’t have an official presence on either campus.
“Forcing these organizations off campus is just going to guarantee that one day an organization is going to sprout up and use the reputation of legitimate sororities and fraternities on campus to recruit people it harms,” Etheridge said.
Members of those STU groups are formulating Greek council to serve as an umbrella organization and a first step before Greek life issues reach the students’ unions.
“That [Greek council proposition] is something I’d be interested in seeing if it was presented on my desk, but until then I cant really say,” Graham said.
“It would probably have a little bit more of a foundation than just the individual fraternities and sororities, and sort of build a better structure to operate on their own… Obviously if something serious happens, it’s still going to be reflected on the rest of the university,” he said.