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 fromAdelfi, 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 startSAE 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,” Keenumsaid. “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.”
Though SAE is mainly a social fraternity, the members participate in community service and organize philanthropy events. The group plans to partner with the Children’s Miracle Network and the Wounded Warrior Project, a program that provides services to injured soldiers as they transition to civilian life.
According to Keenum, maintaining the national traditions of the fraternity while beginning new traditions at a non-Greek school will serve as both a challenge and an advantage.
“We want to be unique, and we still want to follow the SAEtraditions and have our own identity,” Keenum said. “This environment allows us to be ourselves within a national organization.”
SAE has come under scrutiny in the last year because of its hazing habits at other colleges. The brothers at Georgetown said they believe that this is where Georgetown’s unusual atmosphere could be an advantage.
“At a traditionally Greek school, you have certain expectations. Here, since we don’t have that … we [have] the ability to do all the good stuff without doing all the bad stuff,” Baker said.
With a turnout of over 100 people at the Student Activities Fair, SAE will likely expand greatly from its current 39 members.
Meanwhile, PIA, which is the oldest Latino fraternity in existence, appeals to a more specific community at Georgetown.
Veliz said he believes that Phi Iota Alpha offers a unique way for members to embrace Latin culture.
“[PIA’s] goal is to cultivate young Latinos into men with high moral values who are leaders and professionals in their communities,” Veliz wrote in an email.
Throughout the semester, PIA’s six brothers will focus on celebrating and sharing Latino culture and history with other Georgetown students. They plan to fundraise for nonprofit organizations, host celebrations for Latino events and educate the campus about Latino history on a weekly basis though Twitter and Facebook.
They did not set up a table at the Student Activities Fair and do not plan to actively recruit new members.
“Recruitment is largely internal. The group hasn’t come to a decision about what we should do. Membership is open to everyone, but the process itself is intended to be self-selective,” Veliz said. “We think that for new students coming here [who] would be first-semester freshmen, it would be a huge commitment — one they might not be ready for.”
As the two groups continue to grow, Zack Hubbard (MSB ’13), president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said he is happy to see other Greek organizations on campus.
“We love to see more fraternities starting at Georgetown, because having more students in Greek life gives the university and administration the opportunity to see that there are a lot of positives that come with fraternities and sororities,” Hubbard said.